Oracle and Google are meeting again in court on May 9 in the legal dispute about Android Java copyright infringement, which could result in damages worth billions of dollars.
This is the second time Oracle has attempted to take Google down for using Java software sans permission. Four years ago, a jury decided that Google misused Oracle's copyright, just to have the judge turn the verdict around.
Oracle's claim is that allowing Google to make free use of Java puts a brake to innovation in the software sector. On the other side, Google claims that licensing fees would prevent developers from using certain pieces of software that are able to create a more streamlined and unitary coding environment.
Big names in the tech industry sided with one of the companies in the past. Ventures such as HP, Yahoo and Red Hat stuck with Google, saying that Java was copyrightable. In the other party was Microsoft, which agreed with Oracle.
The problem is that Google built its original Android OS using 37 so-called application programming interfaces (API) from Java. APIs are tidbits of code that help a website, a program, or an app play nice with other software.
Oracle points out that the APIs belonged to Sun Microsystems Inc., a company that was purchased by Oracle. Sun was not interested in pursuing copyright rights for the APIs, and Google notes that it implemented them under "fair use" doctrine.
Law specialists, such as Mark Lemley from Stanford University, make it clear that should Oracle score a victory in the lawsuit, coders could grow weary of using APIs. This would remove some of the functionality and universality of apps, fragmenting the digital environment.
"It could stifle programming innovation," Lemley says.
One of Oracle's expert witnesses declared that there is documented evidence supporting the company's damage claims of about $9 billion. The staggering amount results from an analysis of Google's estimated profits from Android during last year. A recent court ruling said Oracle has no basis in using that figure. Google was a bit harsher in addressing the issue and pointed out that the analysis of the expert witness "makes no sense."
A quick summary of the process shows that in 2010, Oracle sued Google over patents and copyright infringement pertaining to Java. It took two years before U.S. District Judge William Alsup decided that Oracle was unable to copyright its Java APIs. In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed Alsup's ruling.
In an ironic twist, the case is back on Judge Alsup's table who has to call Google's use of the APIs as legitimate or against fair play. The two companies sat down in a settlement conference in an attempt to avoid the May retrial, but no mutual agreement was reached.
The newest iteration of the trial will debut on Monday in San Francisco. Bigwigs from the industry are rumored to appear on the witness bench, such as Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.
Regardless of how the trial will end, both corporations declared that an appeal is certain.