Google Strikes Back on Android Ownership

Android may be the software that launched most of the world’s smartphones, however ownership of the system has been at the heart of a long-running dispute between Google and Oracle Corp.

The battle stems from Google using Oracle’s Java development platform in order to create Android. Oracle has asserted its ownership and has demanded compensation to the value of $9 billion, whereas Google has claimed that it was permitted to use Java as part of ‘fair use’. Under US law, ‘fair use’ avoids copyright restrictions by allowing limited use of materials (such as for research purposes), without the requiring permission from the content owner.

There has been little success to date in breaking the deadlock, with an earlier trial in 2012 resulting in a hung jury. A US District Judge then went on to rule that disputed elements of Java could not be subject to any form of copyright, although this decision was later overturned by an appeals court in 2014 . This court simultaneously determined that application programming interfaces (the language that joins together different computer programs) could indeed be subject to copyright. Many feared that this decision would result in an avalanche of copyright claims, however this did not ultimately come to fruition.

Now it appears that Google has all but won the war, with a jury in a retrial unanimously upholding its ‘fair use’ assertion, meaning that Oracle won’t see a cent from its damages claim. Google called on a range of high-profile experts to sway the court in its favor, reiterating the position that it used Java to create its own output and did not steal intellectual property from Oracle.

A Google spokesperson took the opportunity to label the decision not only as a win for Android, but also for the programming and developing community, who rely on open-source product in order to innovate. The win has indeed come as a relief for many developers, given that a favorable decision for Oracle in this case would have been likely to sparurk a chain of copyright disputes.

While Oracle may be down, it’s certainly not out, with plans already forming to launch an appeal. Oracle’s legal adviser continues to assert that Google stole the core technology that allowed it to develop Android and crack the mobile market.

The stocks of both companies appear relatively unaffected, with only minor variances in trades following the decision.

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