On Thursday the two-week trial between Oracle and Google ended when a federal jury found that Google's re-use of 37 Java APIs in the development of its Android operating system is protected by "fair use" according to Stephanie Condon.
While a previous decision in the case determined that APIs are copyrightable, this trial centered around the question of fair use. During the development of the Android operating system, Google used 37 APIs built with the open-sourced standard edition Java Platform (J2SE). Under the rules of an open source license, Google was free to fork the code so long as it was not called Java. Google further reasoned that the APIs are covered by the open source license to the Java code because without the APIs the code would otherwise not work unchanged as intended.
The jury agreed bringing this trial to an end. Had the finding been in favor of Oracle, the jury would have gone into deliberations to determined how much Google should pay.
The decision, while not necessarily a win for developers everywhere, may be an encouraging development. It doesn't set a legal precedent but it could provide guidance for any future cases. A previous Federal Circuit ruling determined that APIs exhibit a level of creativity that would allow them to be protected by copyright but IDC software analyst Al Hilwa offers the opinion that, "the ruling certainly sets a high bar for creativity before deserving protection from fair use. In this sense, developers will broadly view this as a relief from the burden of copyrights in crafting or copying APIs to a certain degree."
The trial is now over but the Oracle v. Google case which stretches back to 2010 is not. Oracle immediately made plans to appeal the ruling.
"We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market," Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley said in a statement. "Oracle brought this lawsuit to put a stop to Google's illegal behavior. We believe there are numerous grounds for appeal and we plan to bring this case back to the Federal Circuit on appeal."