Oracle-Google trial kicks off today
Ruling against the search giant in the Java copyright case could have far-reaching implications for Android base
Published: 16 April, 2012
The legal decisions are starting to mount up in the mobile industry's IPR battles, after the phony war of 2011. The Oracle-Google trial over Java copyright starts today in San Francisco, a lawsuit which could have far-reaching implications for the Android base. And Motorola Mobility has won a victory against Apple's iCloud and MobileMe services in the current hotbed of patent litigation, Germany.
Jury selection will begin today in Oracle's lawsuit alleging that Google infringed Java copyright in Android. The trial is scheduled to last for two months, with the database giant seeking $1bn in damages and an injunction to stop distribution of Android.
"Google's management, at its very highest level, made the decision to intentionally infringe Oracle's Java related intellectual property, in stark contrast to virtually every other industry competitor who have followed the rules for decades," said Oracle attorney David Boies in a statement to Bloomberg.
More than 97% of Android phones active in the past two weeks contain copied code, Oracle claimed in a filing on April 5. Google denies infringement and says the Java technologies it uses are not covered by copyright, but the database giant asserts that 37 APIs used by Google are original and copyrightable expressions. The search firm responded, in a pre-trial hearing, that the APIs it uses are general purpose methods of operation that simply describe how to do a task. "Having two different ways of organizing something doesn't mean those are expression," said Google lawyer Michael Kwun, at a March 28 hearing. It "just means those are two different ideas".
Another member of the Google legal team wrote in a filing: "Computer programming languages are not copyrightable, and neither are Oracle's APIs. Oracle accuses Google of infringement for doing what the Oracle API specifications describe. That is a classic attempt to improperly assert copyright over an idea rather than expression." Oracle is also accusing Google of violating two patents, down from an initial seven.
There have been extensive disputes over damages levels over the past six months and two rounds of settlement talks, in September and then this month, both failed. "This is the World Series of IP cases," US District Judge William Alsup earlier told the firms' lawyers. "Only one winner comes out of the World Series."
But the stakes are far higher than damages claims. A judgement against Google would have more fundamental effects for the whole Android ecosystem than the many suits by Apple and Microsoft, which target individual devices and aim to increase the Android cost base, while spreading uncertainty about the rival platform. In most of these cases, the phonemakers under attack have their own patents with which to retaliate, or can find workarounds.
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