Web giant Google did not infringe on Java patents now owned by Oracle in developing its Android mobile operating system, a US jury has decided.
The dispute between the two IT giants is not resolved, however, as it has it has yet to be decided whether Google infringed on the copyright of the Java APIs.
In early May, the jury decided that Google had breached the copyright on Oracle’s APIs but could not decide whether that breach constituted ‘fair use’.
Presiding Judge Alsup has yet to rule on whether APIs can be copyrighted at all. He asked the jury to assume that they could be when making a ruling on Google’s use of Oracle APIs.
Patent law blogger Florian Mueller played down the importance of yesterday’s ruling, writing that "it had already become crystal clear [before the trial even started] that the copyright part of the case was going to be the important one, not the patents".
Discussing whether APIs can be copyrighted, Mueller pointed out that material is copyrightable due to its structure, sequence and organisation (SSO), not the individual bits (like lines of code) that make it up.
"In my view, there’s no reason why this shouldn’t include the SSO of the asserted Java APIs. A single definition of a constant or a single definition of a function call for drawing a rectangle may not be copyrightable, but we’re talking about many thousands of such elements, structured in a way that takes thought and creativity," Mueller wrote.
Oracle said in a statement that it "presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java. We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java’s core write once run anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the nine million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility."