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InfoQ Homepage News Oracle and Google Plan Appeals of Verdict in Java-Android Trial

Oracle and Google Plan Appeals of Verdict in Java-Android Trial

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Oracle and Google will both appeal a jury's findings that Google infringed copyrights but didn't steal patents when it used Java as the basis for Android, its mobile operating system.

Due to its complexity, the original case was split into two parts - first dealing with the copyright which included, controversially, the assertion that Java's APIs should be subject to copyright law, and then moving on to patent infringement. Oracle's copyright case collapsed, to all intents and purposes, when the judge, William Alsup, ruled that APIs were not eligible for copyright protection under US law.

...copyright law does not confer ownership over any and all ways to implement a function or specification, no matter how creative the copyrighted implementation or specification may be. The Act confers ownership only over the specific way in which the author wrote out his version. Others are free to write their own implementation to accomplish the identical function, for, importantly, ideas, concepts and functions cannot be monopolized by copyright.

That ruling echoed an earlier one from the Court of Justice of the European Union that neither the functionality of a computer program, nor the format of its data files, are expressive enough to qualify for copyright protection.

That left a couple of minor copyright infringements which related to the use of the rangeCheck code in and (around 9 lines in total), and eight decompiled files that were also found in Google's Android codebase. The jury in the original trial ruled on May 7th that Google had indeed infringed Oracle's copyrights with regards to these two items, but was unable to decide whether Google's copying should be considered "fair use". On May the 23rd the same jury ruled that Google had not infringed the two remaining patents in play.

Oracle had been seeking $6 billion in damages for copyright infringement, but at the end of the trial Judge William Alsup awarded the firm zero-dollar damages. Last month Oracle was also ordered to pay $1.3m of Google's $4m legal fees.

Google now wishes to appeal Judge Alsup's decision to not set aside the verdict on copyright. Oracle is appealing the final judgement in the case, handed down in June, and "any and all other orders and rulings adverse to Oracle".

During the trail Alsup became concerned that both Oracle and Google had paid journalists to produce articles in their favour to try and influence the court. Several of these were already known. Florian Mueller, a patent consultant who blogged extensively about the trial, voluntarily revealed shortly after the trial began that Oracle had "recently become a consulting client". Google is known to have given money to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which posted articles during the trial, such as "Oracle v Google shows the folly of US software patent law", though the EFF has denied writing about the case at Google's behest. According to the BBC, Google "paid $1m to the organisation in 2011 after being fined over privacy-rights violations which the EFF had championed". Fortune magazine reported that the Android developer had also given the EFF smaller donations in 2010 and 2011. However, at the same times as granting Oracle legal costs, Alsup also abandoned that investigation, writing

The Court takes this opportunity to state that it will take no further action regarding the subject of payments by the litigants to commentators and journalists and reassures both sides that no commentary has in any way influenced the Court's orders and ruling herein save and except for any treatise or article expressly cited in an order or ruling.

The appeals will be filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, according to the filings. The trial itself was held in San Francisco.

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