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17 April 2012, 11:55

Oracle and Google trial: day 1

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Oracle vs Android In August 2010, Oracle filed suit against Google over Java-related patents and copyrights that Oracle says are infringed by Google's Android Dalvik virtual machine. Now, after eighteen months, the trial has begun in San Francisco.

The case is somewhat thinner than it was when the suit was filed, with only two patents of the original seven still standing: US Patents 6,061,520 and RE38104. The latter patent, granted to Java inventor James Gosling, was granted in 1994 and is due to expire this year, which will have an impact on any claims for future royalties and damages.

The copyright element of the case now hinges on whether it is possible to claim copyright on a language's associated APIs (Application Programming Interfaces); Oracle believes that this should be possible, while Google says that they are merely something used to create copyrightable code. Oracle says the APIs are creative works in which Java's original developers made deliberate choices about what appears in each API, in what order, and the documentation around them.

Oracle opened the trial yesterday, Monday, arguing that Google used Java programming tools to create Android because it wanted its new platform to be rapidly embraced by developers. Oracle said that Google understood it needed a licence for Java and cited an email by Google Engineer Tim Lindholm – which Google fought and failed to keep out of court – where he concludes that the alternatives "all suck" and "we conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need".

Google says the memo is not a legal opinion and that it only used freely available parts of Java. If the jury believes Google was aware that it was infringing Oracle patents then it would triple the damages. Today, Tuesday, Google will begin to present its counter arguments.

The original estimates of damages, around six billion dollars, have been heavily reined in. Oracle's expert reports on damages saw the judge criticise a claim for $2.6Bn in the second report as "stratospheric"; a third report took the claimed damages down to between $129 million and $169 million. These numbers though are for the patent claims; it's unclear what Oracle will require for the alleged copyright infringement.


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