Oracle v. Google: Mixed Results So Far

May 9th, 2012
by John Harris


Many people in the technology business are watching the IP war between Oracle and Google over copyrights and patents on the use of Sun’s Java APIs in Android. Not only could the outcome of this case affect the ability of Android to spread, it could also affect the manner in which software technologies in general are protected – or not.

On May 7, 2012, a jury in San Francisco found that Google copied some minor portions of the Java code (nine lines, to be exact), but could not reach an agreement on the issue of whether Google’s use of the code constituted “fair use.”

There is no decision yet on whether APIs are considered copyrightable subject matter. Historically, APIs have not been considered copyrightable. Oracle has taken the position that the “structure,  sequence and organization” of the APIs in Java merit copyright protection. The judge in the case (Alsup) is expected to issue a legal ruling on the issue of API copyrightability.

Many commentators are opining that the court may award very little, if any, damages for such a seemingly trivial infringement. It seems clear at this point that the infringement is not worth anywhere near the $1 billion in damages that Oracle was seeking – after retreating from asking for up to $6 billion.

The patent portion of the lawsuit is yet to be decided, as well as the copyrightability of APIs. A two-week trial on the patent issues is now underway. So, there is more IP intrigue to follow. And then the appeals.

Here are links to several articles and comments about the case:

Business Insider “There’s a Reason Google’s Lawyers were Laughing…”

Electronic Frontier Foundation ” Oracle v. Google and the Dangerous Implications of Treating APIs as Copyrightable”

Groklaw “Oracle v. Google Trial”

InfoWorld “Update: Oracle gets partial win in Android lawsuit against Google”


This information is presented for educational purposes and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not of Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP; see disclaimer at Contact John Harris for more information at