Thursday, March 29, 2018

Oracle v. Google in Android Dispute

Oracle and Google are at it again.  The dispute was sent back to a federal trial court by the U.S. Court of Appeals for a damages determination this week.

At issue is the nature of Google's use of various java API code in the ubiquitous Android operating systems found on so many phones and hand held devices.  Google had earlier prevailed on a "fair use" argument before a federal jury, successfully arguing that the Android implementation of java API code was exempt from copyright law.  Now, the appellate court's opinion all but assures a continuing battle for years to come given the potential for billions in damages at stake.

Regardless of the ultimate outcome on this case, most corporate and academic environments today are flush with java based applications.  Here is how I am able to offer some reassurance to most clients:

  1. Oracle's primary claims revolve around their contention that the Android java implementation was used to create a competing platform by embedding java in a mobile operating system distributed all over the world.
  2. Oracle does not seem to have a problem with the use of the java environment as a base upon which to build business applications which do not duplicate, attempt to replace or alter core java functionality.  In fact, the core licensing documents for java, often referred to as the "Oracle Binary Code License Agreement for Java EE Technologies", specifically anticipates this use case.
Since use cases conforming to #2 are far and away the most prevalent in the business and academic space, I feel confident continuing to recommend java based application development.  However, if a client desires to embed java within a device for further distribution, e.g. a new refrigerator or toaster, I would be more inclined to approach Oracle for an appropriate commercial licensing agreement. 

This Bloomberg Technology article was a good source of reference for this post and is recommended reading. 

The case is Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc., 17-1118, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The trial court case is Oracle America Inc. v. Google Inc., 10cv3561, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (San Francisco).