Google found not guilty of infringing Oracle's Java patents

Out-Law News | 24 May 2012 | 2:55 pm | 1 min. read

Google did not infringe on the patent rights of Oracle by using Java software within its Android operating system, a US court has ruled.

Java is a technology that allows programmers to write computer code that will run in many computing environments. Oracle claimed Google had infringed on two patents by failing to pay it to use Java technology within Android. However, a California district court jury ruled (2-page / 320KB PDF) that Oracle had not proven "by a preponderance of the evidence" that Google had infringed on either patent.

In its original complaint (161-page / 3.99MB PDF) to the court Oracle had complained that Google was aware of its patent portfolio for Java having employed individuals who had formerly worked at Sun, the company from which Oracle assumed patent rights to Java software when it bought over the firm. It claimed Google's distribution of Android had "injured" it and that Google was therefore "liable for infringement of the patents.

"Google actively and knowingly has infringed and is infringing the [two patents] with knowledge of Oracle America’s patent rights and without reasonable basis for believing that Google’s conduct is lawful," Oracle had claimed. "Google has also induced and contributed to the infringement of the [patents] by purchasers, licensees, and users of Android, and is continuing to induce and contribute to the infringement ... by purchasers, licensees, and users of Android."

"Google’s acts of infringement have been and continue to be willful, deliberate, and in reckless disregard of Oracle America’s patent rights," the company had claimed.

Google said the jury's ruling was "a victory not just to Google but the entire Android ecosystem," according to a report by the International Business Times.

Earlier this month the jury ruled that Google was guilty of copyright infringement of "the overall structure, sequence and organisation" of a grouping of 37 "Java API packages" by implementing code in its Android platform. However, it failed to provide a ruling on whether Google could rely on the 'fair use' defence against infringement that is provided for under US copyright law.

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) enable applications, platforms and other system elements to communicate. The structure, sequence and organisation of APIs used in connection with the Android platform were found by the jury to have infringed Oracle's rights over its proprietary software. The jury exonerated Google of having infringed on the "documentation" of Oracle's Java programming language.

The jury's ruling on the copyright questions was based on the presumption that code that acts as an interface between applications, platforms and other system elements is copyrightable. This is something which has still to be ruled on.