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Oracle Gets Pounded in Week 1 of Google Copyright Case

As Phase 1 of Oracle’s case against Google’s use of Java in its Android software draws to a close, Oracle has taken a pounding from Google’s lawyers.

With closing arguments due early next week, the jury is about to rule on testimony from a parade of star witnesses, including Android chief Andy Rubin, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and especially Jonathan Schwartz, the former CEO of Sun Microsystems, who testified that Sun never charged for Java APIs.

As a reminder, the fundamental issue in this case is whether Google violated the copyright on Oracle’s intellectual property by using Java APIs in the design of Android. The APIs are the crux of Oracle’s case – as the idea of copyrighting Java as a language is too far-fetched, even by Oracle’s standards. But Java without its APIs is basically useless, the way the English alphabet would be without a writing utensil to create words.

Schwartz Hurts Oracle

Schwartz was CEO of Sun Microsystems before it was acquired by Oracle, and negotiated with Google concerning Java licenses after the search giant acquired Android.

In addition to saying that Sun never charged for Java APIs, Schwartz explained that Sun’s goal for Java when the language was created in the mid-to-late 1990s was to build an open-source universal language that was not reliant on Microsoft or Windows. Giving the APIs away for free was the only way to do that.

From Groklaw’s coverage of the case:

Furthermore, Schwartz said there were several other uses of Java, such as GNU Classpath and Apache Harmony that never required licenses from Sun to create “forks” of Java. He said that Sun could not do anything about it.

One of Oracle’s primary pieces of evidence is a series of emails from Google programmers and executives wondering if the search company needed to license Java. Schwartz said that negotiations with Google were primarily over licensing the Java name to create a “Java Linux” phone. In the end, those negotiations became moot when Google adopted the name Android for the branding of the operating system.

Scott McNealy, one of Sun’s co-founders and its longtime CEO, testified about Java’s importance to Sun’s bottom line, noting that Motorola and Nokia licensed Java technologies for mobile devices. Google’s lawyers tried to discredit McNealy by pointing out his close personal relationship with Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison.

Both sides offered testimony to establish technical foundations and provide historical documentation of the relationship between Google and Sun over the use of Java in Android. On that front, Oracle provided emails between Schmidt, Rubin, Schwartz and others that it said showed that Googleexecutives had internal discussions regarding whether they needed to license Java.

In the end, Google decided not to license any Java technologies and built most of Android in a “clean room” environment with the help of outside contractors. The 37 APIs that Oracle is claiming copyright infringement on were built in that clean-room environment.

Jury Verdict Likely Next Week

The final arguments for Phase 1 are tentatively scheduled for Monday, with the case heading to the jury later in the week. If the jury understands the key issues here (and they should after a week of technical testimony), it seems likely that Oracle will lose most if not all of its copyright case.

But that’s far from the end. After the copyright portion concludes, the trial will then move to Phase 2, which deals with two Oracle “patents” it claims Google infringed upon.

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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