The Appeals Court ruled on Tuesday that Google breached patent rights by building its Android platform in 2009 using Oracle’s open-source Java software. The two tech giants had been battling out for eight years until the landmark ruling was made yesterday.
Oracle first sued Google in 2010 alleging that Android violates two copyrights that Oracle owns on its Java software (a universal programming language that powers everything from websites to phones).
Two years later the court ruled that Java is not worthy of protection under copyright law. An appeals court later reversed the ruling in 2014, questioning whether Google breached copyright law by using Oracle’s Application Programming Interface (API).
In 2016, the court ruled that the use of Oracle’s APIs by Google was legal, and in accordance with the copyright law’s fair use policy, that allows for the open use of copyrighted material under certain situations. However, on Tuesday judges of the Appeals Court sided with Oracle which had petitioned the 2016 decision. In their opinion, a panel of three judges said that there was nothing fair about taking an exact copyrighted creation then using it for a similar purpose and function as the prototype in a competing platform.
After the verdict, Google issued a statement expressing its disappointment that the jury overruled the court’s finding that Java was open and free for everyone. A spokesman of the company added that the jury’s decision would affect consumers by making online services and apps more expensive.
However, the spokesman did not say whether the company would appeal the decision, but said that they were considering their options and would decide their next step. Oracle on the other hand was happy with the decision, and also issued a statement saying that their consumers and creators had been protected the ruling.
Google will soon get to know the amount it is supposed to pay Oracle in damages. The latter was seeking a sum of $9 billion in damages. The court may however decide that Oracle deserves more as a way to curtail the rapid theft of APIs in recent years. The sum could surpass the current largest copyright ruling of $1.3 billion that was awarded to Oracle after suing rival company SAP eight years ago.
Besides Google, other companies that depend on open source software to create their own platforms also stand to lose from Tuesday’s verdict. Carani also said that the verdict would create an important shift in the development of software worldwide. Tuesday’s ruling implies that companies will either have to develop their own software from scratch or pay to license certain software.