The Google, Inc. v. Oracle America settlement, Inc, set a monumental precedent for the software development industry. In 2010 Oracle claimed Google infringed on its patented Java API structure in the development of the Android platform. In 2012 Judge Alsup ruled that API framework is not copyrightable and no settlement was made. In 2014 Federal Circuit reversed a part of the ruling regarding copyrightability, and the case was remanded. Fast forward to May 2016 a second trial was conducted with respect to Oracle’s demand of $9.3B in damages. The conclusion reinforced that Google’s reuse of 37 of 166 packages of Java API were not copyright infringements and that APIs are protected by “fair use.”
The outcome of the Google v. Oracle case was one of the most considerable rulings not just for Google, but for the entire software development industry, a multitude of tech firms, the Internet, and for the over 1.4B users of Android technology. Currently, some aspects of software development are based on an open-sourced format. APIs are interchangeably shared and reused among developers, as long as they are implemented in different codes. This allows for innovation to flourish and cooperation to increase, all while saving precious research and development time and the costs associated with it.
If Oracle had won the 2016 trial the ruling, it would have affected an entire industry of software development. The opposite conclusion could have exposed the entire Android ecosystem to a myriad of copyright liability for instances such as Java API copyright infringement for any smartphone creator such as Samsung that used the Android platform for its devices, any developer that downloaded the software or applied any of the APIs designed for the Android platform, or any reseller distributing Android phones. Also, a little far fetched, but anyone that has downloaded an android application could have been liable, each time the device was turned on!
Java APIs are needed for the more seamless transition of information and commands by so many platforms, it would be nearly impossible to integrate thousands of applications without it. If Oracle won the case, it could impose conditions to this usage and charge licensing fees as high as it saw fit. It would have turned an entire industry upside down. The collaborative industry consensus of sharing APIs, could have been exposed to a domino effect of legal liability stemming from the Oracle v. Google example, where original API creators could be inspired to seek damages from companies that reapplied APIs, and the cases could be never-ending. Although Oracle has claimed to appeal, for now, Google’s win set a wave of relief to an entire industry that thrives on each other’s progress and innovation.
*This article was originally created by Jorge Campos, Sr. Software Consultant at WBpro.