Google kicks Oracle in its patent teeth

Google kicks Oracle in its patent teeth

Summary: Oracle loses its patent claims and so Google has almost completely defeated Oracle in its vain attempts to squeeze an intellectual property payoff from Google and Android.


The jury has ruled, and Oracle has lost.

The jury has ruled, and Oracle has lost.

I get to say I was right again. First, I told you so when I said the Facebook IPO was dead in the water and now I get to say I was right about Oracle's Java patent claims being next to worthless in its case against Google and Android. Oracle vs. Google has been a dead lawsuit walking all along, and now as I suspected it would, the jury has ruled that Google didn't infringe on Oracle's patents. Game, set, and almost the match to Google.

To be exact, the U.S. District Court of Northern California jury ruled unanimously that Google did not infringe on six claims in U.S. Patent RE38,104 as two claims in U.S. Patent number 6,061,520.

Not mind you, that it would have mattered much had the jury ruled the other way. As Oracle's own expert, Boston University professor Iain Cockburn had said earlier, even if Google were found guilty on all those counts, Oracle would had won maximum damages of $32.3-million. Oracle may have spent more than that every month keeping this case going.

After the verdict, Judge William Alsup dismissed the jurors, and said he'd be deciding on the related application programming interface (API) copyright issue next week. I find it highly unlikely that he'll rule that APIs can be copyrighted.

If Alsup does rule that APIs can't be copyrighted that leaves Oracle with nine, count 'em, nine lines of copyrighted code in the tens of millions of lines of Android. Those lines are now long gone. Actually, those miserable nine lines are even less impressive than they sound.

During the trial, Alsup said that he had learned how to write enough code leading him to believe that anyone could have written those nine lines of code. As Alsup told Oracle counsel David Boies, "The idea that somebody copied that in order to get to market faster when it would be just as fast to write it - it was an accident that it got in there. You're one of the best lawyers in America. How could you even make that argument?"

Given that comment, I don't see any way Oracle will get a thin dime from those few lines of code.

So what will all this mean? First, it's not the end. Oracle will appeal. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison doesn't know the meaning of the word "Quit." I don't see any chance though that any higher courts will give Oracle's arguments any credence.

As Linus Torvalds, Linux's creator, observed on Google+, "Prediction: instead of Oracle coming out and admitting they were morons about their idiotic suit against Android, they'll come out posturing and talk about how they'll be vindicated, and pay lawyers to take it to the next level of idiocy." Alas, he's right.

Looking beyond the courtroom, unless, Alsup rules that APIs can be copyrighted, there shouldn't be any real effect on open-source programming in general or Android programming in specific. For all practical purposes, Oracle has failed completely.

At the same time, Oracle, which, believe it or not, is an open-source company in many ways with its MySQL database and its own house-brand of Linux, continues to lose what respect it has left in the open-source community. Most of Sun's open-source leadership left Oracle immediately after the takeover; Oracle gave OpenOffice away to Apache; and long before that, Oracle tossed OpenSolaris to the roadside. As Torvalds comment shows, Open-source developers are not happy with Oracle.

Java developers in turn have never been happy with first Oracle's lawsuit or its management of Java. Java has been slowly declining in popularity for years. While neither this case not its verdict will have a direct effect on developers, I do see it as giving open-source and Java developers even more reasons to grow ever more wary of Oracle and its products.

Related Stories:

Jury clears Google of infringing on Oracle patents

Copyrights, APIs, and Oracle vs. Google

The muddled mess of the Oracle vs. Google trial

Oracle vs. Google: Dead lawsuit walking

Oracle's Google Android patent lawsuit cut down to size

Topics: Google, Open Source, Oracle, Software Development

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  • Open-source developers are not happy with Oracle

    So what - Open source isn't about what people think of you, it's not a religon, it's supposedly a tool to give the user the ability to make changes to the code to suit [i]their[/i] needs, not their competitors or whatever.

    [i]I dont see any chance though that any higher courts will give Oracles arguments any credence[/i]

    Famous last words for many a person.
    William Farrel
    • Yes, but... will make open source developers a lot more cautious about donating code to Oracle-sponsored projects (I'm under the impression that Oracle still owns MySQL).
      John L. Ries
      • MySQL

        The good part is that no one really *owns* open source. But I agree - makes you think twice about contributing anything to Oracle.
        We're doing our best to boycott them. Sigh. Where art thou, Sun??!
      • Oracle DOES Own MySQL

        Oracle does own MySQL. they do not, however, own all the spin offs. There are alternatives.

        Oracles problem is that the creators of all the awesome applications that make MySQL the M in LAMP (and then run the bulk of the internet) might write for one of the alternatives instead. That would be very bad from Larry Ellison's point of view.

        MySQL makes money, and more importantly, is a major thorn in the side of Microsoft's IIS/SQLServer. (There's a history of bad blood there.)

        But, if he can reassure other corporations, they will still keep assigning people to work on MySQL. (There are as many if not more people who are paid to work on FLOSS projects as there are people who just donate their time for their own reasons.) So, this is not an insurmountable problem for Oracle.

        Look at OpenOffice and Libre Office. Oracle really ticked off the FLOSS guys with Sun's then Oracle's heavy handed approach to software submits, but now, OOo has the large corporate backers, while Libre Office has the small and lone backers. Best guess is that both projects will continue to trade results with each other. They may need to rewrite the code, but that's easy, if you have the other guy's code to use as a template. BSD and Linux have been doing that for well over a decade. It's quick, it's easy, and the licenses allow for it, so it's even legal.

        That's probably more what Oracle can expect for MySQL. It's even probably what Oracle wants. Heads Larry wins, tails, Ellison wins.
    • Groklaw

      Go to Groklaw and read some of the comments by Lawyers.

      Yes, there will absolutely be an appeal, no matter what the verdict is. But, Judges are quite careful to give reasons for all opinions. Juries, meanwhile, cannot be appealed, unless you can prove tampering or misrepresentation. Both very hard to do.

      That means there will then be an appeal of the appeal, until it reaches a level where the appeals court just says 'No'.

      They can do that.

      End result, Oracle has already spent more money than they will ever hope to get. Ellison may be very stubborn, but he is still first and foremost a business man. He will add up the dollars and when he does, he will end this.

      If approached properly, Google will be quite willing to help him sell Java. They already do. Google after all, doesn't make any direct revenue from Android. Google makes money from advertizing. What Google wants is applications for Android that show the entire world ads from Google's clients. If Oracle makes that easier, Google will snap it up. Google already requires developers to use one of the latest official Java releases, along with a Google library.

      There are opportunities here for both sides, if the lawsuits just stop. Eventually, both sides will see that.

      In the end, it is money that will settle this. Not judgements, just profits.
  • Hopefully Oracle goes back to writing Code

    and leaves the Software litigation industry.
    • Re; . . . and leaves the Software litigation industry.

      Lawyers do not code for a living.
      Oracle will have to reduce the number of lawyers and hire software developers instead.
      In the long run, that will probably be a much better business model.
  • Sanity Prevails. Hats off to the Jury and Judge Alsup

    DTS - Your Linux Advocate
  • A little bit more than Nine Lines

    There are those decompiled test files, though since they didn't ship in Android, it'd be hard to argue they added any value when assessing infringer's profits.

    I agree that Judge Alsup is very unlikely to find APIs protected. I am pleased to see reports that transformative creativity led to 9 of the 12 jurors voting for fair use.

    One will have to head further up the road from my place to find one shedding tears for Oracle. (Actually, I guess that road would be the 101.) Still, now I'm wondering if Sun didn't pursue licensing in the courts because it was a distraction as they packed up the place for sale, or their attorneys told them the case was weak. Meanwhile, the possibility of a suit was dangled in front of Oracle's eyes as proof of Sun's asking price for the java asset. Caveat emptor.

    I think we can all agree that David Boies is an excellent attorney when one has a case. But, if BSF keeps changing what exactly is the issue (or theory of damages, or what discovery they absolutely need) and you are the client, thank them for their time, write a check if you have to, but break off the suit sooner than soon.
  • I was right too!

    It was so obvious that the lawsuit was baseless to me.
    FOSS wins again, and oracle joins $co on the list of defeated trolls.
    Next, M$ & apple!
    The Linux Geek
    • Google kicks Oracle in its patent teeth

      @The Linux Geek
      more like apple to me...
  • Even a broken clock...

    is right twice a day. Especially if it's an analog relic living in the past.
  • Is this really a huge victory?

    I thought one of the patents was set to expire at the end of the year and Oracle. Likewise, I thought Oracle was focusing on the copyright aspect as the primary focus of the case.

    This trial is just a big diversion. It is the patent system that needs reforming. I have no great love for Java or Android and so the whole thing means nothing to me.
    • You haven't been following this case for long.

      When the case started, the patents were the main focus with the copyright thrown in for good measure. Then the USPTO kept issuing rejections on the patents Oracle based the lawsuit on, so the copyrights became the defacto main portion of the lawsuit. So the final results are 9 lines of code that does argument bounds checking, 8 decompiled test files not part of the end product and wasn't supposed to be there in the first place (and immediately removed), and the API (a portion of the Java name space) but not the implementation of that API.
  • Hoo-Rah!

    May this inspire further losses in the ridiculous lawsuits dept...
  • ...

    The funny thing is, I could tell who wrote this article just by looking at the title.
  • Idiocy to Mafia?

    As Oracle seems to have no shame. Could it go a step further with illegal tactics? Like threatening the next judge "You take these $50 millions bribe and make me win or you will have a car accident". I hope such a scenario is impossible but with Oracle and some imaginary billions at stake, I wonder.
    • I would think that's more a Google tactic

      as they have no shame in anything. WiFi snooping, ect. "shut up, it was really just an accident".

      Besides, Google's the one making the automated self driving cars. They could easilly have it "malfunction" and vear head on into a judge's car, claiming "shut up, it was really just an accident".
      William Farrel
      • Sour grapes from un-slick Wilie

        Get over it, troll. You lost.

        Run along now...
    • Safeguards

      There are safeguards in place to prevent things like that.

      If they tried, then Ellison would get 25 or so years of free room and board, but all in a space smaller than his current closet on his boat.

      The FBI and Justice Department are ALWAYS looking for things like that. That's why the Mafia doesn't do it any more.

      Even in Italy, it's rare now.