Google has beaten Oracle in a court case over the use of 37 Java APIs in the Android operating system.
The case had been closely watched, not just because it involved two of the biggest names in tech but because the implications if Oracle had won on its assertion that APIs are subject to copyright would have been felt across the industry.
Oracle had demanded as much as $9.3bn in compensation from Google, based on its opinion that Google has generated revenues of $42.35bn from Android, in part from apps downloaded from the Google Play store, but largely from selling adverts, location and other data that Android discloses to Google.
Oracle had argued that Google's actions had undermined its Java licensing market as licensees threatened to use Android or a fork of Android for free.
The database firm claimed that it was forced to slash Amazon's Java licence by 97.5 per cent when Amazon threatened to shift its Kindle e-reader from Java to Android.
In turn, Google had argued that its use of Java APIs amounted to ‘fair use' and that APIs were not subject to copyright. The firm contended that APIs never have been subject to copyright as software vendors need access to them to achieve interoperability between software products.
The case is the latest in a battle between the two companies that goes back to 2010, shortly after Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems for $5.6bn in 2009. Sun developed the Java development language in the mid-1990s in a bid to provide an environment with as few implementation dependencies as possible, capable of enabling developers to 'write once, run anywhere'.
The first round of the case was heard in 2012 when the jury decided in Oracle's favour. However, that was overruled by district judge William Alsup, who directed that APIs were not subject to copyright.
His judgement was overturned by an appeals court in 2014 and the case then went all the way to the Supreme Court, which rejected it, leaving the appeals court verdict intact.
However, it failed to address the central issue of whether Google's use of Java APIs in Android constituted fair use or not, a decision that would set a far-reaching legal precedent, hence the new trial this month.
A victory for Oracle would have meant that software writers would need to acquire a licence before they could release software offering interoperability with other systems.
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