In a case that had far reaching implications for Google, Oracle and developers, a jury in San Francisco has ruled in favor of Google over a claim from Oracle and the use of Java APIs in Android. At the heart of the case were 37 APIs which Google, at the behest of Oracle back in the day, used in the development of Android. Google argued successfully that the APIs fell under fair use and were not subject to licensing or patent infringement. While it was never fully disclosed how much Oracle was seeking in damages, it has been suggested it would have been upwards of $9 billion.
This is not the first time the question of Java APIs have come to court between Google and Oracle. The first case was overturned in 2012 (which Google also won) and thus this year’s re-trial. This
decision, too, will likely go to appeal but it is becoming ever more difficult for Oracle to win this case at this point.
Oracle, who now owns the create of Java, Sun Microsystems, argued that Google had blatantly copied code and used the APIs in Android. Google argued that the APIs had always been free and open for anyone to use, including themselves. They did so and in fact Sun Microsystems at the time never had an issue with it – indeed encouraged the APIs to be used. That all changed when they were purchased by Oracle who almost immediately started litigation against Google over the APIs.
In a broader view, this is a huge win for developers who have leveraged fair use APIs, not just those of the companies involved. If Oracle had won this case, countless other APIs used ubiquitously throughout the tech industry could have been subject to licensing and litigation. It could have but a serious dent in application development at best and shut down significant sectors of the tech industry at worst.
We haven’t heard the last of this case but today at least, it is a win for Google – again.