Oracle, Google give closing arguments in Java API copyright case

Did Google's use of Java APIs to build the Android OS amount to "transformative" use, or were they simply stealing at another firm's expense?
Written by Stephanie Condon, Senior Writer

When Google used 37 Java API packages to build the Android operating system a decade ago, did it use "open and free" tools to build a transformative product? Alternatively, did Google simply steal the copyrighted APIs at another company's expense?

That's the question before the 10-person jury considering the epic Oracle v. Google case. Both sides delivered their closing arguments Monday in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

Oracle is suing Google for copyright infringement, claiming that Google should have paid licensing fees to use the APIs, which were developed by Sun Microsystems before Sun was acquired by Oracle. A federal appeals court has already ruled that the APIs were, in fact, protected under copyright. Now Google is arguing that its use of the code amounted to "fair use."

If the jury sides with Oracle, it will move on to the damages portion of the case. Given how much Google has earned from Android, and how much financial damage Oracle claims it incurred because of the infringment, the software giant is seeking $9.3 billion in damages from Google.

Google attorney Robert Van Nest summed up the internet giant's case, arguing that the APIs served a purely functional purpose. At the same time, using the APIs to build the OS was a truly "transformative" use, he argued.

"What Google engineers did was nothing out of that mainstream," he said, ArsTechnica reports. "They built Android from scratch, using new Google technology, and adapted technology from open sources. Android was a remarkable thing, a brand-new platform for innovation."

There are four factors that would support Google's "fair use" claim: if its use of the copyrighted technology was "transformative," if the APIs were incidental to Android, if the APIs were not considered a creative endeavor, and if Google can demonstrate it did not cause market harm to Oracle.

Earlier in the trial, Oracle CEO Safra Catz argued on the stand that Google did indeed cause market harm to Oracle. Google's free use of the Java APIs hurt Oracle's licensing agreements with other companies that were paying to use Java, she said.

Nest on Monday argued that neither Sun nor Oracle showed any interest in Google's use of the APIs until Oracle failed to build its own smartphone.

"Now we're in a situation where Oracle, which had no investment in Android, took none of the risk--they want all the credit and a lot of the money," he said. "And that's not fair."

Meanwhile, Oracle attorney Peter Bicks argued to the jury that Google simply refused to pay for its use of the APIs because it "believes it is immune from copyright laws."

"It gets down to a very simple rule," Bicks said. "You don't take people's property without permission."

Bicks reminded the jury about a series of emails that suggested Android developers knew they were obligated to pay a licensing fee for the APIs. He also shot down the notion that the APIs were incidental to Android, arguing that Android would be crippled without the use of Java.

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