Google wins Java copyright case over Oracle on fair use grounds

A federal jury found that Google's use of Oracle's Java programming language in Android didn't violate copyright law, claiming the fair use doctrine enabled Google to build compatible software without obtaining a license.

But the case is likely far from over.

Oracle initially filed the lawsuit in 2010, claiming Google used 11,000 lines of Java code in Android in violation of copyright law. A federal appeals court later ruled Oracle could copyright Java code, but Google successfully argued in a new trial that its use of Java was limited and covered by fair use.

The verdict was reached after three days of deliberations. Google stood to lose as much as $9 billion had it lost the case.

Software developers across the globe could receive a boost from the verdict. "The case is important because it helps clarify the copyright rules around what programmers can borrow for their own work," Wired wrote. "Programmers routinely borrow APIs from existing products either to ensure compatibility between products or simply to make it easier to learn a new product. An Oracle victory could have seriously curtailed that practice, hindering the creation of new software."

Oracle has already said it will appeal, however, claiming "there are numerous grounds" for such a move, The Wall Street Journal reported.

And any celebrations of the decision in Silicon Valley may be short-lived, Florian Mueller of the blog FOSS Patents wrote. The self-described "intellectual property activist-turned-analyst" predicted an Oracle appeal is highly likely to succeed, saying the verdict in favor of fair use was one "no reasonable, properly-instructed jury" could have delivered.

Pretrial decisions by the judge gave Google an edge even before the proceedings started, Mueller wrote, and "his jury instructions on the 'fair use' rules were unbelievably unfair and biased." Mueller also said Oracle had been precluded from presenting all of its evidence.

"This is the outcome of a rigged (for emotional, not for financial reasons) retrial," Mueller wrote. "It's absolutely wrong. This here is a far cry from anything any appeals court ever deemed to constitute fair use."

For more:
- read this Wall Street Journal report
- see this FOSS Patents blog post

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