Oracle-Google Java, Android Lawsuit to Enter Patent Phase

April 26, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Epoch Times Photo
The Android stand in Barcelona on February 29, 2012. Oracle and Google are close to wrapping up the first phase of a three-phase trial over the potential use of Java in Android. (JOSEP LAGO/AFP/Getty Images)

The sizzling legal battle from Oracle and Android over the claimed use of Java in the Android operating system is reaching the close of its first phase, that of copyright. Oracle has rested its case in the copyright phase of the trial, and it is currently Google’s turn to produce witnesses to strengthen its defense of Android. Both sides will finish presenting their cases on Friday and Monday, and move on to the patent phase of the trial.

The legal case has been keenly watched by the software industry, as the once Android-specific case has ballooned past its initial scope, with the decision on this case potentially affecting how the entire software industry does business.

Google managed to significantly weaken Oracle’s patent claims by having several of the patents invalidated before the trial, causing Oracle to focus on copyright claims. But Oracle’s copyright claims involve the Java programming language’s application programming interfaces (APIs) and standard definitions, something that has always been a gray area in terms of use. 

In the past, programmers have been free to use programming language APIs under the assumption that it was the implementation of a specific piece of code, and not that the APIs themselves – which are just the names used to invoke a piece of code – that were copyrighted.

Copyright Phase: Star Turnout

Oracle claims that Google has used 37 specific APIs in the Java programming language without taking out a license, and that it is entitled to a share of profits based on Google’s use of these APIs. Google claims that the Java programming language is an open specification and taught in universities around the world, and that Oracle and Sun tried to build a smartphone, and failed, and that “they want to share in Google’s success with Android even though they had nothing to do with Android.”

The trial has seen industry heavyweights from Oracle, Google and the former Sun Microsystems testify for and against both sides. Oracle presented its opening arguments on the first day with 91 slides, and Google had a chance to respond with its own opening statements on the second day. 

Larry Ellison and Larry Page, CEOs of Oracle and Google respectively, testified on the second day of the trial, with each presenting their own sides of the argument. The trial got more technical over the next few days as other executives and senior technical staff from both sides were called to testify and cross-examined over the Java-Android issue. The case got more interesting over the last three weeks as former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Vice-President of Mobile Andy Rubin – the man behind Android – testified.

The trial got heated on Thursday as former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz testified in favor of Google, stating that the Java programming language was free to use. In response to a question “Has the Java programming language always been free to use?”, Schwartz replied “Absolutely”, saying that he didn’t believe that Google needed a license to use Java and that Sun had not pursued a legal case against the search giant because he didn’t think they “had a case.”

Mr. Schwartz was contradicted just a few minutes later by another former Sun executive Scott McNealy, though Google lawyers pointed out that Mr. McNealy had close relations to Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and that he had even proposed that an airport in California be named after Mr. Ellison.

Patent Phase to Begin Next Week

Google will call its final witnesses and rest its case on Monday, and the jury and judge will decide on the copyright issues, with the patent phase of the trial starting right after.

While five of the seven patents that Oracle had initially brought up in the case had been invalidated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), Oracle managed to successfully get one of the patents revived this week, but it was denied the chance by Judge William Alsup to use the patent into the case. 

Oracle had been given a chance earlier to defer its trial till the Fall when the USPTO finished its complete re-examination, but had turned it down to get the trial started sooner. “Oracle will be required to stand by its word and live with the dismissal with prejudice,” Judge Alsup ruled.