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08 May 12 Jury favors Oracle in mega-millions Android lawsuit — sort of

The tech trial of the century is wrapping up — but the winner is anyone’s guess. 

Oracle had been seeking up to $1 billion in damages on copyright claims after alleging that Google built its popular Android mobile software by stealing some of the technology from Java, a programming platform that Oracle Corp. bought two years ago.

In delivering a partial verdict Monday, the jury found that Google infringed on the largest of Oracle’s claims, but it couldn’t agree on whether Google’s use was legally protected “fair use.” 


TECH TRIAL OF THE CENTURY: Oracle has accused Google of patent infringement over Google’s Android, the mobile OS that now powers more than 300 million smartphones and tablets.

Jan. 27, 2010: Oracle closes deal to buy Sun Microsystems, gets the Java programming language.

Aug. 12: Oracle sues Google in U.S. District Court, says Android infringes on Java.

Sept. 12, 2011: Company CEOs are ordered to attend mediation to settle the lawsuit.

March 27, 2012: In a joint statement, companies say they are far apart. Oracle seeks hundreds of millions in damages, Google won’t pay more than a few million.

April 16: Trial begins. In opening statements, Oracle says Google’s top executives have long known that they stole a key piece of tech.

April 17: Google’s opening statements frame the case as Oracle’s response to its own failure to build mobile software. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison admits he wanted to compete before deciding instead to sue Google.

April 18: Google’s Larry Page returns to the witness stand, looking uncomfortable as he deflected questions about his role. 

May 1: Lawyers make closing arguments on the copyright issues. Judge sends case to jury for deliberation.

Without that determination, it will be difficult for Oracle to win major damages — making the ruling a victory of sorts for the company, but one that will clearly frustrate.

“We appreciate the jury’s efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin,” a Google spokeswoman told “The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that’s for the court to decide.”

The company remained optimistic the mixed ruling. 

“We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle’s other claims,” she said.

The jury also found that Google infringed on Oracle’s copyright on nine lines of Java code that is in Android, but Oracle can only go after statutory damages on that one. Those damages can range from $200 to $150,000 — peanuts relative to Oracle’s goals in the case.

Oracle did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Meanwhile, Google is moving for a mistrial.

Google has argued that it only used parts of Java that have always been freely available.

The same jury will now hear evidence in the next phase of the trial, covering Oracle’s allegations that Android violates two Java patents. Those claims are believed to be worth considerably less to Oracle than the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages that it had hoped to extract from Google had it prevailed on all of its all of its allegations of copyright infringement.

Oracle bought Sun and Sun’s Java technology in early 2010. Later that year, Oracle sued Google, alleging Android infringes copyrights and patents that protect Java. 

The companies went to trial in San Francisco earlier this month. And Oracle’s case had initially appeared rock solid.

Ahead of testimony by senior executive Larry Ellison, Oracle released a series of quotes from senior Google executives suggesting they knew they were treading on thin legal ice.

“If Sun doesn’t want to work with us, we have two options: 1) Abandon our work … -or- 2) Do Java anyway and defend our decision, perhaps making enemies along the way,” Google senior vice president of mobile Andy Rubin reportedly emailed to co-founder Larry Page on Oct. 11, 2005.

Rubin then suggested to Page that the company pay Sun for a license to the technology — an action Google never took. Subsequent emails appear to show various Google employees covering up the use of Java.

“How aggressive do we scrub the J word?,” former Google software engineer Dan Bornstein apparently wrote.

It seems the jury had questions as well.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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28 Apr 12 Google and Oracle ‘Experts’ Clash Over Android’s Java Mimic

Google and Oracle are in court to decide whether the search giant infringed on Java-related copyrights and patents with its Android operating system. Photo: s_falkow/Flickr

The code used to run Java applications on Google’s Android operating system is “completely different” from the code that underpins Oracle’s Java platform, according to an expert witness called by Google in its ongoing court battle with Oracle over Android and Java.

“The implementation code in Android is completely different than the implementation code in Java,” Duke University computer science professor Owen Astrachan said on Friday, though he added that the two use the same “method signatures,” code that defines the inputs and outputs for part of a computer program.

In suing Google over its use of Java on Android, Oracle is trying to show that the search giant infringed on its copyrights and patents by mimicking the Java platform it acquired with the purchase of Sun Microsystems in 2010. In some places, Oracle says, Google even copied its code directly. But Google says it was completely within its rights when building a new platform for running Java applications, known as the Dalvik virtual machine, and its stance was supported by Astrachan.

Astrachan’s testimony contrasted sharply with that of Stanford University processor John Mitchell, who was originally called by Oracle on Monday and returned to the stand on Friday. Mitchell said that at least in some cases, Google must have copied code from Oracle’s Java platform. “I don’t think there is any way [Google] could have come up with it on their own,” he said, when asked if he thought Google copied code for the Java application programming interfaces, or APIs.

Google says Dalvik is a “clean room implementation,” meaning it was built from scratch. But Mitchell disagreed. “Whoever inserted that code into the codebase had access to it,” he said. “This wasn’t a clean room implementation.”

The case may hinge on how well the jury understands how computer code works, whether they can grasp such programming terms as “class libraries,” “methods,” and “APIs.” Oracle claims that Google infringed on its copyrights by mimicking 37 Java APIs, which are akin to instruction manuals for building software in the Java programming language. Mimicking the APIs is a necessary part of building a platform that runs Java applications, but Oracle also argues that if Google wanted to use the Java APIs, it should have a bought a license to the official Java platform.

Astrachan spent much of his testimony trying to educate the jury on the finer points of computer science. Standing at an easel, he wrote a simple program in Java designed to print the letters on a webpage. The demo was meant to teach programming vernacular, but also show how the Java programming language is compatible with Android and how the Java platform APIs and class libraries are essential to the use the language. “For me to write this [demo program] out without those libraries, would probably be a thousand lines of code,” he said, referring to the amount of work it would take if Google did not mimic the 37 Java APIs in question.

With Astrachan on the stand, Google counsel Bruce Baber detailed an analysis the company commissioned Astrachan to write, arguing that of the 15.3 million lines of code built for Android, only a small fraction are similar to the 4.7 million lines of code in version 1.5 of Oracle’s Java platform. “The platforms are not similar,” Astrachan said.

In cross examining the Duke professor, Oracle asked if Google lifted code from the Java platform. “I don’t believe that these were copied,” he said. “Android uses the APIs, but I don’t believe it was copied.”

Oracle’s witness, Stanford professor John Mitchell, disagreed strongly with Astrachan. But when Google questioned him, the search giant argued that in order to use Java, Android’s APIs must, by definition, use the same interface as the Java platform. Mitchell was at first evasive when Baber questioned him whether a developer would expect the APIs to be available when writing code, but then he said: “If you said write something in Java, that would be the default assumption.”

Neither Oracle nor Google would disclose how much they are paying their expert witnesses, and the two sides agreed not to ask their experts how must they were being paid when they took the stand. Dan Bornstein, who oversaw much of the construction of the Dalvik machine, testified as a fact witness in the case, and Google paid him $400 per hour for his testimony.

By the conclusion of Friday’s proceedings, both Google and Oracle had rested their cases in the “copyright phase” of the trial. Closing arguments are set for Monday, and after the jury rules on this phase, the “patent phase” of the trial begins. Should the jury find Google guilty in either phase, there will then be a “damages phase” where the two sides argue over how much money must pay Oracle for infringing on its intellectual property.

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