Oracle seeks $9.3 billion from Google for infringing Java patents, copyright

Oracle is seeking $9.3 billion in damages from Google with regards to a patent and copyright infringement dispute that's been going on for 6 years now.


In 2010, Oracle had sued Google over their use of Java as a basis for Android. The case keeps popping up in the news from time to time as and when there's a new development, and now there is one. Oracle, the current owners of Java, are seeking $9.3 billion in damages from Google. As PCWorld reports, that figure amounts to about double of Google (or rather, Alphabet's) operating profit in 2015.

To quickly summarise the case, Google developed an environment for Android called Dalvik. Now Dalvik itself is compatible with Java, but it was developed independently by Google, without the use of any actual code from Oracle, then Sun Microsystems.

Google was engaged in negotiations with Sun Microsystems and later, with Oracle, regarding licensing for Android. However, no agreement was reached by 2010 and Oracle decided to sue Google.

Oracle claims that Google infringed on several of Oracle's patents and copyright related to Java. Google insists that even if it did infringe on Oracle's copyright, it was covered under 'fair use', which does not require permission from the original copyright holder and that the APIs (Application Program Interface) involved in developing Android are not covered by copyright law anyway. The latter is true, as far as copyright law is concerned, but Oracle insisted that the "structure, sequence and organisation" of the Java API was unique and copyrightable.

In 2012, a jury ruled that Google had infact violated Oracle's copyright with regard to the APIs, but couldn't decide if that violation was covered by fair use. Google protested the ruling and pushed for a retrial in the copyright hearing. A separate trial was conducted for the allegations of patent infringement.

The retrial for the copyright ruling resulted in a ruling in favour of Google, but a further retrial again ruled in favour of Oracle. As things stand, the decision as to whether Google's infringement of Oracle's copyright is covered under fair use or not is pending. This trial is set for 9 May.

The initial filings in preparation for that case indicate that Oracle is seeking $9.3 billion in damages. Google's counter-filing isn't available for perusal yet, but reportedly indicates that they claim they're only liable for around $100 million in damages.

The case will have major ramifications for software patents and licensing the world over, and is one that needs to be watched very closely.

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