Oracle Loses Appeal, Again

Oracle Corp.'s latest appeal for a new trial in its long-running copyright infringement lawsuit against Google has been denied. Judge William Alsup of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco rejected Oracle's claim that Google tainted a jury's verdict by hiding evidence.

According to court documents, Oracle charged that Google's legal team failed to disclose its client's intention to develop tools to run the Android OS on the desktop using the Android App Runtime for Chrome (ARC). This disclosure would have been a "game changer," Oracle argued, nullifying Google's assertion that its use of 37 Java APIs was limited to mobile devices, and therefore did not compete with Oracle's software.

But in his 26-page ruling, issued Tuesday, Alsup pointed out that any evidence relating to implementations of Android on devices other than smartphones and tablets fell outside the scope of the trial, a limitation to which both companies had agreed. "Oracle's purported 'game changer' would not have changed anything at all," Alsup wrote, "because the scope of the 'game' was smartphones and tablets, postponing new and later uses to a later contest."

He added: "It may well be true that the use of the copyrighted APIs in ARC++ (or any other later use) will not qualify as a fair use, but that will not and does not mean that Google's argument on transformative use as to the original uses on trial (smartphones and tablets) was improper. That Oracle failed to detect the ARC++ documents in its possession had no consequence with the defined scope of our trial."

"ARC++" is the internal name of the Google project, which was launched in 2015.

Oracle originally sued Google, now a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., six years ago, charging that its use of Java APIs in Android infringed on patents that came with its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. In 2012 a federal jury ruled unanimously that Google had not infringed on Oracle's patents. Later that year, Alsup also ruled that the APIs in question were not subject to copyright. But that ruling was overturned by a federal appeals court. Google petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to hear another appeal, but the high court decided not to review the case, returning it to the district court. The high court's decision to leave the federal appeals court's decision in place means that APIs are now copyrightable.

In May of this year a jury ruled that Google's use of the Java APIs was a "fair use" of that technology and did not infringe on Oracle-owned copyrights. Oracle had asked for $9 billion in damages. 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."

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].