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Android Google Oracle The Courts

No Patent Infringement Found In Oracle vs. Google 234

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-there-we-go dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "Today, the jury in the Oracle vs. Google trial found no infringement of patents by Google. The jury deliberated about 30 minutes to reach the verdict, bringing an end to the second phase of the trial, and a beginning to the damage phase, which may be very little of what Oracle originally asked for. Still no word on API copyright issues. Judge Alsup will be ruling on that in the near future, and it will certainly have an impact on the developer community."
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No Patent Infringement Found In Oracle vs. Google

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  • by jonniesmokes (323978) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:09PM (#40092033)

    If the APIs turn out to be non-copyrightable, does this mean we can really all enjoy/suffer Java for free?

    • by poetmatt (793785) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:13PM (#40092113) Journal

      The Jury was leaning heavily on them not being copyrightable anyway. See: https://twitter.com/FedcourtJunkie/status/205370887078285313 [twitter.com]

      We all just interviewed juror, who said jury was split 9-3 for google on copyright fair use. Um, wow.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:20PM (#40092235) Journal

      If the APIs turn out to be non-copyrightable, does this mean we can really all enjoy/suffer Java for free?

      It's a great deal more important than that: If APIs are copyrightable, API-compatible implementations of anything without that thing's blessing would be on legally shaky ground. I'll leave imagining the technology world in an alternate universe where IBM simply sued Compaq for producing an API-compatible BIOS to the reader; but that's the sort of magnitude we are talking here...

      • by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:54PM (#40092669) Journal

        It's a great deal more important than even you are suggesting. If APIs are copyrightable, then Linux and *BSD just became illegal for implementing POSIX without a license from The Open Group. Such a decision would absolutely have to be appealed up to SCOTUS, and if necessary, reversed by an emergency act of Congress. It simply cannot be allowed to stand, as it would essentially end Western civilization as we know it. Imagine 90% of the world's servers becoming illegal overnight. Imagine the machines that run 75% of the world's stock markets becoming illegal overnight. Such a decision would essentially bring the computing industry and every industry that depends on it to a grinding halt.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          I'm imagining that world... and I just see a whole lot of licenses being signed in a hurry. Big money creeps get richer, and independents get more shut out. Especially of the internet, and computing.

          What? You think anyone is lobbying congress for the rights of the latter group? Nobody in power minds if this goes down at all, and very few people in the suburbs and Walmart do either.

        • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:17PM (#40092915) Journal
          It could also be construed to cover virtually all protocols and file formats, as well, since those are descriptions of the 'interface' by which an application can interact with another system or data storage structure in a compatible way. You'd basically end up in a situation where interoperability would be possible only at the pleasure of the original vendor for the duration of an entire copyright term. That would be pretty dramatic.
        • by ArhcAngel (247594)
          That would indeed be interesting as both Microsoft's Windows and Apple's OS X derived some of their code from BSD.
          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Apple would be fine; Mac OS X is an actual, licensed UNIX implementation. Windows, however, would probably become illegal.

        • It's a great deal more important than even you are suggesting. If APIs are copyrightable, then Linux and *BSD just became illegal for implementing POSIX without a license from The Open Group.

          This overstates the case. If the copyright on Java extends to include the APIs, the actual use of APIs to acheive interoperability could still be fair use. Judge Alsup's request that Oracle and Google provide further briefing on the applicability of the 9th Circuit's Sony v. Connectix decision (which addressed fair use

        • by jimshatt (1002452)
          Is there a time limit for enforcing your rights as a copyright holder? If the judge decides that APIs are copyrightable, then that means that they were always copyrightable (but we just discovered that fact). If so, can old API copyrights still be enforced when you have failed to do so for all these years?

          Also, a copyright holder may choose not to enforce, or maybe explicitly putting the API in the public domain, maybe.

          OTOH, I *knew* there was something wrong with Mono! ;-)
        • Such a decision would absolutely have to be appealed up to SCOTUS, and if necessary, reversed by an emergency act of Congress. It simply cannot be allowed to stand, as it would essentially end Western civilization as we know it. Imagine 90% of the world's servers becoming illegal overnight. Imagine the machines that run 75% of the world's stock markets becoming illegal overnight.

          No, it wouldn't. Oh, it would if it were enforced uniformly and fairly, but nobody involved is interested in killing the goose. Among other things, that would show how divorced from reality the stupid decision would be, and, as you say would lead to it's revocation. If it does come to pass, the result would be a slow, but continuously growing, increase in the costs of everything technological, as parasites attach and start rent-seeking. It's really not different to the current patent situation in anything b

    • by vlm (69642)

      If the APIs turn out to be non-copyrightable, does this mean we can really all enjoy/suffer Java for free?

      If they are copyrightable, will we all have to switch to Scala running on the JVM? I have to think about that a minute. As long as you expunged all java including libraries from the ecosystem, then... hmm.

      • by characterZer0 (138196) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:31PM (#40092393)

        If they are copyrightable, will we all have to switch to Scala running on the JVM?

        If the APIs are copyrightable, the bytecode spec will also be copyrightable. So you cannot write a JVM without Oracle's permission. This was the problem for Apache Harmony. If APIs are found to be non-copyrightable but the bytecode spec still is for some reason, Google could write (or allow others to write) a Dalvik VM for other platforms and we could continue writing Java code but compile it for the DVM instead of the JVM.

        • by idontgno (624372)

          If the APIs are copyrightable, the bytecode spec will also be copyrightable.

          That's something I noticed in the Groklaw reporting. Oracle's position was that the copyright on the Java spec made any independent implementation of the spec (i.e., a Java-code-based runtime environment) a copyrighted derived work of Java, and therefore only permissible by explicit Oracle license... which Oracle was always planning on denying Google absent successful negotiations of big fees and onerous terms.

          This lead some comme

          • by wrook (134116)

            This lead some commentators on Groklaw to a counter-intuitive conclusion: that Google might have been in less trouble if they had just forked the OpenJDK source code base (using GPL-accorded rights) rather than trying for a code-clean reimplementation of specification and API.

            Yes. This is exactly right. The GPL explicitly gives them the right to do what they want. This lawsuit would not have been possible if Google had forked the GPL code -- or possibly, even if they had just used the GPL license. If the API is copyrightable, then implementing the API is a derived work and they *can get a license for that*. If they had licensed under the GPL they could just say, "Hey, we are complying with the license -- here's the source code". The only issue here is that they chose a mor

    • APIs maybe. Java? No. Java(tm) is still a 'LIVE' mark owned by Sun Microsystems (now Oracle) according to this:

      Word Mark JAVA Goods and Services IC 009. US 021 023 026 036 038. G & S: computer programs for use in developing and executing other computer programs on computers, computer networks, and global communications networks, and instruction manuals sold therewith; computer programs for use in navigating, browsing, transferring information, and distributing and viewing other
    • More importantly, it means that you can write a bytecode VM without infringing on Oracle's patents.

    • by mounthood (993037) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:22PM (#40092981)

      If the APIs turn out to be non-copyrightable, does this mean we can really all enjoy/suffer Java for free?

      No, because Oracle will sue you for $6.1 billion anyway. The objective wasn't just money from Android, it was to assert control over Java. Oracle's actions since buying Sun have been consistent on this: making deals on OpenJDK for IBM to drop Harmony and Apple to drop their Java port, general patent FUD, and finally suing Google. With this ruling Oracle's control is clearly a financial 'might makes right' assertion without legal basis, but does that matter?

  • Ouch (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:13PM (#40092107)

    The jury deliberated about 30 minutes

    That's kind of damning. Apparently Oracles case was so weak a group of largely non-technical people decided it was much of nothing in 30 minutes. That's basically the time it takes for them to go into the room, all get coffee and donuts and take a vote.

    • by hedronist (233240) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:26PM (#40092317)
      I don't know where this "30 minutes" number came from. Maybe it was 30 minutes today, but all together it was at least 2 or 3 days, maybe even 4.

      It's interesting to note that the only reason it took them that long was because the jury foreman was the only hold out in favor of Oracle. Apparently he was the one responsible for many of the questions that the jury kept sending to the judge.

      Anyway, glad this is (almost) over. The only real thing left is for Judge Alsup to determine if the APIs are copyrightable at all. My personal bet is that he will rule that they are not and that this will drive a stake through the heart of Oracle and (hopefully) Larry Ellison.

      But as PJ at GrokLaw keeps telling us: never make a bet on a legal ruling.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        I believe the judge kinda lead his opinion by saying that he disagreed with them being copyrighted, based on his comments about RangeCheck ("I could do this myself any day"). There are zero damages on the table now though, which is a far cry from 6 billion dollars - so the rest of this case should finish quickly. However, there is a question of whether the CAFC gets involved at the appeal level and simply rules pro-patent like they seem to do with everything lately, and whether the recent supreme court deci

        • I believe the judge kinda lead his opinion by saying that he disagreed with them being copyrighted, based on his comments about RangeCheck ("I could do this myself any day").

          Though I believe the judge will hold them to be non-copyrightable, if he does so based on that reason, it's immediately reversible on appeal for multiple reasons. One is that the judge is neither an expert nor a witness (nor can he be), so his independently created facts are inadmissible.

          The second, and more important reason, is that ability to re-create something is irrelevant to whether it's copyrightable. You sit me down with a typewriter and a case of Mountain Dew, and I'll write you a story about boy

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Apparently Oracles case was so weak a group of largely non-technical people decided it was much of nothing in 30 minutes.

      I don't know where you get the impression that they were largely non-technical people. AFAIK, this trial was held in a SF Bay Area court. I doubt fewer than half the jurors worked at tech companies, and even the judge had programming experience.

  • by gus goose (306978) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:17PM (#40092187) Journal

    Hmmm... Thursday last week till today... that's a about 30 minutes according to Oracle's 'simulations' ... ;-)

  • by zjbs14 (549864) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:18PM (#40092195) Homepage
    The jury has been deliberating on the patent infringement since last Wednesday. Not sure where the submitter for the 30 minutes from.
  • by T.E.D. (34228) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:19PM (#40092201)
    According to that Groklaw link in TFA, the jury has been dismissed and there will be no damages phase.

    Our reporter provides this:

    Clerk: Question 1: has Oracle proved by preponderance of evidence that Google infringed?

    Claim 11: not proven 27: no 29: no 39: no 40: no 41: no

    Question 2: not proven 1: no 20: no

    Question 3: no answer, no response, not applicable.

    Unanimous. The jury is dismissed. There will be no damages phase for them to endure.

  • by ZombieBraintrust (1685608) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:22PM (#40092265)
    There will be no damage phase. Judge has sent the jury home. Judge will handle damages himself based on agreements between Oracle and Google. Basically Oracle will get a few thousand for the 9 lines of code and a couple thousand for the test files. Then they will spend that money in one day in lawyer fees on the appeal. It is also important to note that this trial only covered 2 patents. Oracle can try again with different patents. However it should be noted that these were likely their best patents to use against Google.
    • by phoenix_rizzen (256998) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:44PM (#40092527)

      Oracle started with 7 or 9 patents that they thought were worth $6 billion in damages/licensing/royalties/whatever.

      All but 2 of the patents ('104 and '520) were found to be invalid and rejected by the USPTO. The '104 patent was found to be preliminarily invalid after the trial started.

      And now Oracle is leaving with nothing but a huge invoice from the lawyers ... the same lawyers who lost the SCO trial(s). (Go figure.)

      • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @05:21PM (#40094309) Homepage Journal

        Oracle started with 7 or 9 patents that they thought were worth $6 billion in damages/licensing/royalties/whatever.

        But ... but ... Sun was only worth that valuation because Java was worth the price of beating Google into a cross-licensing deal on their big-database patents. Oh, dear.

        I'm wondering if all the Sun projects get cancelled now, or if the lawyers convince the board to go for an appeal. After this performance, one might expect a beheading or two.

    • by DickBreath (207180) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:53PM (#40092655) Homepage
      The judge will be deciding the damages on the 9 line RangeCheck function which was found to be infringed. So there is a damages phase, of sorts. The 9 lines include some blank lines. RangeCheck is a function to check if an array index is between zero inclusive and some upper bound. I imagine that Oracle has been severely financially damaged by Google having copied this highly sophisticated function.
      • by Baloroth (2370816)

        The judge will be deciding the damages on the 9 line RangeCheck function which was found to be infringed. So there is a damages phase, of sorts. The 9 lines include some blank lines. RangeCheck is a function to check if an array index is between zero inclusive and some upper bound. I imagine that Oracle has been severely financially damaged by Google having copied this highly sophisticated function.

        The judge has already warned Oracle that he think a high-school student could write that function and not to expect much in damages from it, so I'm thinking OP's "a few thousand" might be a little optimistic for Oracle. It may well end up being in the hundreds (and it could be even lower, depending on how much of as example the judge wants to set).

  • "Though the jury has been dismissed, the core issue in the trial is still undecided. Judge William Alsup will rule himself on whether the Java APIs are subject to copyright, and he expects to do so sometime next week."

    • Yes, and that's the bigger deal. It doesn't ever end.

      • Even if the judge does the unthinkable and rules for Oracle, all they'll get from it is the $150,000 statutory limit. To go against their several million dollar lawyers fees.

        • Even if the judge does the unthinkable and rules for Oracle, all they'll get from it is the $150,000 statutory limit. To go against their several million dollar lawyers fees.

          Probably not even that... To get statutory damages, you have to register your work with the Copyright Office. If they didn't do that, then they can only get actual damages, which may be tiny.

          • They did register it. However, there's some confusion around just exactly what they registered and what the registration covers. It came up a few times during the trial, with Google filing several motions to have the whole case tossed due to Oracle not having the rights to sue. :)

            Reading through the groklaw.net stories about each day in the court room is very interesting. Basically, Oracle's lawyers screwed the pooch from the get-go. :)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @02:32PM (#40092399)

    Kudos to the jury. They put a lot of effort into understanding the issue at hand. Based on courtroom reporting, the jury paid attention and they asked clarifying questions while deliberating to make sure they understood. Software patents are a mess. Oracle's arguments were terrible from a CS standpoint (and their expert should be embarrassed).

    I believe the only issue still on the table is API copyrightability which Judge Aslup will rule on as a matter of law. The jury found for Oracle in that instance because the jury instructions essentially mandated it. I expect Aslup will rule for Google on that claim as well.

    Oracle's current claim for money is literally for 9 lines of code called rangeCheck (which anyone in a high school intro to java class could write), and 8 test files copied by a subcontractor and never distrusted to end users.

    A certain Oracle paid blogger will still manage to post how Oracle basically got everything it wanted.

  • This will not stop Sun Microsys... (ahem, sorry Oracle). Companies that choose to innovate in the courtroom will not let something like a dismissal of a single court case stop them from trying to leach on and suck innovation from other companies.

    • Please don't accuse Sun Microsystems of lacking innovation capability.

      They may not have had very good business sense, but they sure built some cool stuff.

  • by DrXym (126579)
    I cannot feel the slightest shred of sympathy for Oracle over this. When it comes to damages they'll be lucky if they receive a sum which pays for their legal expenses. This is somewhat removed from the beeelions they originally wanted.
  • Shocking! (Score:5, Funny)

    by stevenfuzz (2510476) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:21PM (#40092963)
    Dear Oracle, Apparently your lawyers are about the same quality as your databases. When your lawyers lost, did they email technical support and receive the answer, "Please restart your database"--you know, because they hadn't tried that 5 times.

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not "Eureka!" (I found it!) but "That's funny ..." -- Isaac Asimov

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