With billions at stake, here are the weirdest moments in Oracle's massive lawsuit against Google
The two were back in court this week, with an all-star list of witnesses.At issue is Google's use of 37 application programming interfaces in its Android software that came from a programming language called Java that's owned by Oracle.
The trial has been going on for years, across three phases. The jury is currently deliberating.No matter what the jury decides, the loser will likely file an appeal.
In the meantime, many stars of the tech world were called to the stand and a lot of memorable things happened.Here's a look at some of those highlights, as well as an overview of what this case is about.
Oracle first filed the suit in 2010, claiming copyright infringements and patent infringement. Oracle lost the patent infringement case. But in a twist of events, it won the copyright case.
An appeals court found that Google copied parts of 37 APIs. That's code that lets software apps talk to each other and share data. Google did not take the whole APIs, but it used the same names and operations, then wrote its own code to implement the functionality.Advertisement
One weird moment was when Oracle's lawyers compared what Google did to the Harry Potter books, saying it was as if Google took chapter titles.
By invoking Harry Potter, Oracle was trying to prove that parts of the 37 APIs that Google used (the headings and sequence) required a lot of creativity.Advertisement
The judge in this case, Judge William Alsup, actually taught himself the Java programming language so he could better understand the case. In an earlier phase of the case, he found in favor of Google's argument that APIs should not be copyrightable. Europe decided the same thing about APIs.
But an appeals court overturned Alsup's ruling. The Supreme Court refused to take on the case. So Oracle's appeals win stood and both sides came back to court to hear Google's next defense ...Advertisement
This part of the trial was to determine if Google's use of the API's fell into the "fair use" part of the copyright law. If Google wins it will not owe Oracle any money.
If Google loses, the trial immediately moves into another phase, to determine how much money Google should pay Oracle in damages. This will involve the same jury and more witnesses. Google has already removed the 37 APIs from current versions of Android. So it shouldn't have to pay ongoing royalties.Advertisement
If the trial progresses, Oracle is expected to ask for a lot money, up to $9 billion, which is more than the $7.4 billion it paid to buy Sun.
After Oracle bought Sun in 2010, it tried to get Google to pay fees over these 37 APIs. Google refused.Advertisement
Another weird moment in the case revolves around the "Bat Mitzvah story". The story came to light when Oracle CEO Safra Catz took the stand and told an anecdote about seeing Google's top lawyer at a Bat Mitzvah.
Catz testified that Google General Counsel Kent Walker approached her to say Google was a “very special company,” and “the old rules don’t apply to us." Catz retorted “Thou shalt not steal," calling her quip "an oldie but a goodie.” Google's lawyer didn't refute the Bat Mitzvah story, but needless to say, this is just Catz' version of events.Advertisement
Larry Page was also called to the stand. Page has a medical condition affecting his vocal cords and was practically whispering on the stand. It was reportedly very difficult to hear him.
Oracle asked Page how much money Android generates for Google. Oracle believes Android has generated $42.3 billion in revenue for Google, mostly through ads, according to the analysis of Oracle's expert economist.Advertisement
Under oath, Larry Page disputed that number, saying he thought it represented all the money everyone has made on Android, including partners like the telcos, not just Google's revenues. He did not reveal what Google's actual revenues are. Google won't talk about that.
Page also refused to acknowledge that Google "copied any code" when creating Android. Still, there is a famous "9 lines of code" that were found to be identical, thanks to a programmer who was hired by Google after working for Sun. Remember, that's 9 lines out of millions.Advertisement
Oracle also argued that Android killed the Java phone business, including its phone software called SavaJe. There were a lot of jokes about how to pronounce that, such as calling it "savage." And lots of jokes about how awful the SavaJe phones are by today's standards, like the one pictured below.
Oracle also showed off a lot of embarrassing emails from Google, calling former Android leader Andy Rubin to the stand. In this famous email, Rubin warns Page that if Sun refused to work with Google, Google could be "making enemies."Advertisement
But Google's main point in defense: Sun gave Java away for free for anyone to use, this includes the APIs.
Google's big score was calling Jonathan Schwartz as a witness, the former CEO of Sun. He testified that Google was indeed free to use Java's APIs.Advertisement
Schwartz explained that the situation was like two restaurants that served a food called a "hamburger." Everyone agrees to call it a "hamburger" on the menus and they compete by trying to sell the better burger.
If Oracle wins this phase and Google is ordered to pay damages, Google has a few more chances to fight the verdict. Google will argue that Oracle waited too long to file the case. Android came out in 2007 and is open source, meaning everyone can see the code and use it. This lawsuit wasn't filed until 2010, after Oracle bought Sun. If Google loses these extra arguments it will likely file an appeal.Advertisement
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