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Oracle America, Inc. V. Google Inc.

10-3561, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Cal. (2012)

By Monica Corrine Moran


In a controversial decision dated May 7, 2012, United States District Judge William Alsup in the Northern District of California denied Oracle America, Inc.'s, (Oracle) request for a ruling that could have potentially established that the defendant Google, Inc. (Google) is liable for copyright infringement. Oracle requested that the court grant relief in its favor on the basis of fair use after a jury found, in part, that Google infringed parts of its Java platform language to create the Android mobile operating system. The jury however, was deadlocked over whether Google's use of the Java platform constituted fair use, as it could reasonably be found that Google's infringement was incompatible with Java platform system. (Rpt ΒΆ 288).

As articulated in Oracle's amended complaint, the Java platform is a bundle of related programs, specifications, reference implementations, developer tools and resources, that permits a user to develop applications written in the Java programming language on servers, desktops and mobile devices. (Case 3:10-cv-03561 - WHA). Oracle acquired ownership in the Java platform as a result of its purchase of Sun Microsystems, Inc. (Sun).

At the heart of Oracle's copyright claim was its contention that Google copied its Java code without obtaining a license to create the Android mobile operating system. In its response, Google asked the jury to consider that, prior to Oracle's purchase of Sun, it made the Java programming language freely available to the public and publicly approved Google's use of the Java in Android, and that Google adhered to fair use guidelines in developing Android with the free and open source code in Java APIs. In addition, Google argued that because Sun never licensed an incompatible version of Java to competitors, any hypothetical loss would be excessively speculative. (Br. 4, Supp. Br. 11-14).

Under U.S. copyright law, the doctrine of fair use states that anyone can defend a use of an unauthorized copyrighted work if the work is being used in the context of teaching, news reporting and commentary, or to advance the public interest.

This decision has the potential of leading to a new trial on the query of whether Google's infringement makes it liable for as much as two and a half billion dollars in damages through the end of 2012, based on a hypothetical lost license fee calculated at the fair market value of the copyright at the time of infringement. (Mackie v. Rieser, 296 F.3d 909, 917 (9th Cir. 2002)).

Following jury deliberations on this issue, this court will then hear arguments as to whether Google violated U.S. patents held by Oracle.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on May 16, 2012 8:47 PM.

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