Oracle Wants to Include New Android Developments in its Java Lawsuit

Oracle Corp. wants to expand the scope of its complaint against Google in the long-running Oracle America v. Google Inc., Java copyright infringement lawsuit to include developments in the Android OS since the suit was filed in 2010. In its proposed supplemental complaint, Oracle asks that 40 major and minor Android releases comprising six versions -- from Gingerbread, released in 2010, to Lollipop, released in 2014 -- be included. Those releases represent an "ongoing infringement of Oracles copyright in the Java Platform," Oracle argued.

In its supplemental complaint, Oracle cites Google's implementation of Android technologies that violate its copyright in smartphones, wearable products, television applications, automotive tech and household appliances, as well as the Google Play digital storefront, which "boasts over 1.5 million apps, 18 million songs, 5 million books and 2,000 publications."

That ongoing infringement has hurt the Java platform, Oracle argues, while allowing Android to become the leading mobile platform. In a section of the complaint entitled "Google is Destroying the Market for Java as a Mobile Platform," the company contends than none of Android's success (an estimated 1 billion-plus active monthly Android users in more than 8,000 devices) would not have been possible without the "infringing Java code," and yet, "applications written for these new Android versions are not compatible with the Java platform, because they do not run on the Java platform or on devices implementing the Java platform." Google has, Oracle argues, broken "the 'write once, run anywhere' principle on which Java was built."

Apparently, Google isn't against a supplemental complaint, but won't abide an amended complaint -- more is okay, but nothing new, please. Also, in its own filing, Google argues that Oracle should not be allowed to raise the issue of whether Google willfully infringed its copyrights with the jury. "Willfulness" (or as Google puts it, Oracle's "faux-willfulness") could affect the amount of damages Oracle might receive. Google argues that "The only issues left for the jury to decide in this case will be whether Google's use of the declarations and the structure, sequence and organization ("SSO") of the 37 Java API packages is a fair use, and, if not, the amount of Oracle's actual damages and Google's profits attributable to the alleged infringement ...."

Here's a quick summary of the back-and-forth in this case so far:

In 2010 Oracle sued Google, claiming that, in developing its Android mobile OS, the Internet search giant infringed on patents associated with the Java Platform, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems Inc.

In 2012 a 10-person jury serving in the Federal District Court in San Francisco ruled unanimously that Google had not infringed on Oracle's patents.

Later that year, the presiding judge, U.S. District Judge William Alsup, also ruled that the 37 Java APIs at the center of the lawsuit were not subject to copyright.

In May 2014, a federal appeals court overturned that ruling, declaring that the Java APIs were protected under U.S. copyright law.

In October 2014 Google filed a petition with the Supreme Court, asking it to review and reverse the appeals court's decision.

In June 2015, the high court decided not to review the case, returning it to the district court -- which means that the earlier ruling stands and APIs are now copyrightable

Google will now have an opportunity to argue that its use of the APIs in question falls under the doctrine of fair use.

The U.S. Copyright Office defines fair use as "a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances." As attorney Case Collard explained it to me in an earlier interview, "Fair use is a fact-specific inquiry. It depends on what the item is that is copyrighted and how the entity claiming fair use is using it." That earlier post includes more details on that doctrine from Collard and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who originally ruled that the 37 Java APIs at the center of the lawsuit were not subject to copyright, said his calendar would likely preclude another trial until the spring of 2016, Reuters reported. In the meantime, he ordered the two companies into mediation, "whether you like it or not."

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at [email protected].