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Google wins in Android copyright battle; Oracle vows to appeal

Google Android
People pose by Android lawn statues at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., last week.
(Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

A federal jury has sided with Google in a $9-billion legal battle with tech industry rival Oracle Corp., a complex copyright case that was closely watched in Silicon Valley.

Oracle had said Alphabet Inc.'s Google stole some of its Java software to create Android, the world’s most popular smartphone operating system.

Some tech industry groups said Oracle’s assertion would undercut practices that are widely used to create all kinds of software.

Oracle had sought $9 billion in damages after saying that Google, without Oracle’s permission, copied certain elements of the Java programming language that helps software programs talk to each other. Oracle said Google then reaped huge profits through ad sales on Google services such as maps and search engines on Android phones and tablets.

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But jurors found that Google didn’t need Oracle’s permission to use certain elements of Java. The jury agreed with Google attorneys who argued that copyright law allows “fair use” of the Java elements because they were a small part of a much larger system of software that Google created for a new purpose.

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The jury’s Thursday verdict marks Google’s second victory in the case. U.S. District Judge William Alsup sided with Google in 2012, ruling that the Java elements — known in the industry as Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs — weren’t protected by copyright. But an appellate court overturned Alsup’s ruling and sent the case back for a second trial.

Oracle, which acquired the rights to Java when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010, vowed to appeal Thursday’s verdict.

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“We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market,” Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley said in a statement. The company said “there are numerous grounds” for an appeal.

Google welcomed the jury’s finding.

“Today’s verdict that Android makes fair use of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and free programming languages to build innovative consumer products,” the company said in a statement.

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UPDATES:

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2:45 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information. 

This article was originally published at 1:58 p.m.


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