The soap opera of Oracle versus Google took a surprising fork in the proceedings. In this post mortem analysis, we’ll look into what went wrong (for Oracle) and what went right (for Google). Surprisingly, it was the same person.
We all remember that in the spring of 2009, Oracle bought Sun Microsystems and the Java code base. In the spring of 2010, Oracle sued Google, saying Android infringed on seven Java patents, plus unspecified copyrights. Oracle also claimed billions of dollars in lost revenues.
For the past two years, stalwart Oracle and Java fanboys have loudly proclaimed Google stole all the Java code to create Android. Some have even gone as far as suggesting Android should be forced out of the marketplace.
At the end of Tuesday?s proceeding, in the Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc. 3:10-cv-3561, US District Court California Northern District (Oakland), the closing statements for Phase 2 of the trial were issued by each side.
Then, a comical interchange took place between Oracle lawyer David Boies and Federal District Judge William H. Alsup. Judge Alsup challenged Boies for trying to pin so much on the rangeCheck infringement.
"Judge: We heard the testimony of Mr. Bloch. I couldn?t have told you the first thing about Java before this problem. I have done, and still do, a significant amount of programming in other languages. I?ve written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times before. I could do it, you could do it. The idea that someone would copy that when they could do it themselves just as fast, it was an accident. There?s no way you could say that was speeding them along to the marketplace. You?re one of the best lawyers in America, how could you even make that kind of argument?
Oracle: I want to come back to rangeCheck.
Judge: rangeCheck! All it does is make sure the numbers you?re inputting are within a range, and gives them some sort of exceptional treatment. That witness, when he said a high school student could do it ?
Oracle: I’m not an expert on Java — this is my second case on Java, but I’m not an expert, and I probably couldn’t program that in six months…."
A major portion of Oracle?s claims are based on nine lines of code contained within Java.Util.Arrays.rangeCheck(). There is no way the law should allow a disgorgement theory over millions or billions of dollars for nine lines of code.
Mosher: "Judges like William Alsup are going to put an end to these IP shenanigans by lawyers that the industry has been dragged through for too long. Appellate Court Judge should be hesitant to change anything when Judge Alsup knows how to program, has properly instructed the jury, made reasonable rulings, and expedited the process. Let us all hope that this in itself sets a precedent for all such future legal contests involving tech IP."
We also asked PJ Jones, the legal mind behind Groklaw, what she thought of Judge Alsup?s comments and the stipulations between Oracle and Google.
Jones: "I thought it was delightful that the judge is capable of understanding what is truly technical and what sliced baloney is. I started Groklaw with the expressed hope that if we explained the tech to lawyers, they could explain things to judges, so rulings would have some hope of matching tech reality. This one was even better.
What it did was streamline the case. What so often happens is you have to take long detours to argue about whether baloney is baloney, or not. This one led to a stipulation once reality clonked Oracle’s lawyer in the noggin."
Does this mean Google has won? No.
Oracle claims that its Java APIs – the technical guidelines that allow two pieces of software to talk to each other – are copyrightable. Oracle has other copyright claims where it says Google flat-out copied the Java code. If Oracle wanted to win their claims, they had better have some compelling points in their closing arguments. Nine lines of code are obviously not worth a billion dollars by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.
If Judge Alsup ruled the Java APIs are in fact copyrightable, Oracle would get a new jury and argue for full damages. If the 37 APIs were ruled not copyrightable, Oracle agreed it will just take "statutory damages" – a standard amount – that doesn?t exceed $150,000 per claim. Oracle indicated that it would appeal such a decision as well.
Above placed a giant hole in the Oracle Legal Teams ‘dog & pony show’. A few thoughts about the proceedings:
Oracle shows a lack of ‘Due Diligence’ in not really knowing the Judge you?re standing in front of while trying your ‘shuffle off to Buffalo’ routine.
Raises serious questions as to why a top notch programmer isn’t part of the Oracle legal team. Makes it very difficult to get an appeal trying to cite that the Judge did not understand the issues, nor the law, or the interaction between them.
Kudos to the Clerk of the Court who really laid away Oracle’s legal team by assigning the case to US District Judge William Alsup, of the Northern District of California. A trained mathematician who knows programming as well as the law.
Overall the case has been one of the best to watch — "Gentlemen’s Gamesmanship" being played like a Pro Hockey Match.
Background from some folks about the Oracle patents that are in dispute.
Game (Finally?) Over on Wednesday, May 23rd
Wednesday, May 23rd, the patent litigation was settled in favor of Google. Oracle lost by unanimous vote of the jury on all counts. Thus, Google has been exonerated with acknowledgement in their favor for fair use of the Java code. Google said:
"Today’s jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle’s patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem."
Now the proceedings have moved on to the copyright issue. Each side is submitting brief prior to Judge William Alsup’s final ruling. Google argues that Oracle has the compatibility argument all wrong. The compatibility Google is talking about is with the Java language, not J2SE. As for the compatibility to which Oracle refers, Google states:
"Indeed, Oracle has itself benefitted from the compatibility between the J2SE and Android platforms. For example, Oracle admitted that it accepted Google?s contribution of Josh Bloch?s TimSort.java and ComparableTimSort.java source code and incorporated it into Oracle?s OpenJDK 7, which is the current Oracle release of J2SE."
Oracle’s stock price has dropped $.49 for the week or .018 percent. Google stock price has dropped $10.45 for the week or .017 percent. So the court decision?s have not a major impact of their stock values.
In the long run Larry Ellison probably wishes he had not sued Google over Java. Because he has lost way more in the long run, than the money he hoped to gain.