Wednesday, 29 August 2018 07:43

Oracle one step closer to victory in Google API case Featured

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The Supreme Court is the only avenue for Google if it wants to avoid paying damages to Oracle. The Supreme Court is the only avenue for Google if it wants to avoid paying damages to Oracle. Pixabay

Google will have to go to the US Supreme Court if it wants to contest the reversal of a verdict — in a long-running case with Oracle — that had found its use of 37 Java APIs in the Android mobile operating system was covered by fair use.

On Tuesday, the US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a bid by Google to have the case reheard. This means that the decision — that Google's use of the Java APIs was "not fair as a matter of law" — will stand, and the search giant will have to fork out US$8.8 to billion to Oracle or else try to take the case to the Supreme Court.

In its order, the Court said: "Cross-Appellant Google LLC filed a petition for rehearing en banc [as a group]. A response to the petition was invited by the court and filed by appellant Oracle America, Inc.

"The petition was first referred as a petition for rehearing to the panel that heard the appeal, and thereafter the petition for rehearing en banc was referred to the circuit judges who are in regular active service. Upon consideration thereof,

"It is ordered that:

"The petition for panel rehearing is denied.

"The petition for rehearing en banc is denied.

"The mandate of the court will issue on September 4, 2018."

Contacted for comment, a Google spokesperson told iTWire: "We are disappointed that the Federal Circuit overturned the jury finding that Java is open and free for everyone.

"We will appeal to the Supreme Court to defend this principle against companies like Oracle, whose restrictive practices threaten to stifle the work of new generations of tech developers.

"This is an important issue with wide implications for developers and the digital economy."

Oracle corporate communications spokesperson Deborah Hellinger told iTWire: “We are pleased that the Federal Circuit upheld the well-reasoned panel decision. We are now one step closer to putting our damages case before a jury."

The case has been going on since 2010 when Oracle sued Google shortly after it purchased Sun Microsystems and became the owner of Java, claiming that the search engine company had violated its copyright and patents.

That case ended in 2012 with Google being largely the victor. The presiding judge, Justice William Alsup, ruled that APIs could not be copyrighted.

But an appeal gave Oracle what it wanted: a ruling that APIs could be copyrighted. As a side note, this ruling has put developers at risk, as they could be sued for using APIs that they could use freely prior to the trial.

In a second trial that ended in May 2016, a jury found that Google's use of the 37 Java APIs in its Android mobile operating system was covered under fair use. As expected, Oracle was not happy with the verdict.

Oracle initiated an appeal in February 2017 having indicated after the May 2016 verdict that it would not take a backward step. In August 2016, Oracle tried to get the verdict set aside, but was this was refused by Justice Alsup. Later the same year, the database giant filed the necessary papers to prolong the battle.

Finally, on 28 March, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit came to the conclusion that Google's use of the Java APIs was "not fair as a matter of law".

Thanks to The Register for a link to the court order.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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