Colorado residents likely know that lawsuits over intellectual property are not uncommon in the technology sector, and attorneys representing Google were in court on May 26 to answer allegations that the search engine giant used programming language owned by Oracle without permission when developing it Android operating system. Android has become the world's most popular smartphone and tablet software, and Oracle was seeking $9 billion in damages.
While the federal jury accepted that the Android operating system used elements of Oracle's Java software, it ruled that this use did not violate U.S. copyright laws. Java is a programming language that allows different types of software to work together. Google successfully argued that the Java elements involved made up only a small part of its Android system and that its use fell within the 'fair use" exemption. This exemption allows copyrighted materials to be used in certain situations without first seeking the permission of the rights holders. Oracle has said that it plans to appeal the decision.
The litigation was followed closely in Silicon Valley, and both Google co-founder Larry Page and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison provided testimony. Oracle's vow to appeal the jury decision is likely to be taken seriously by Google. The company successfully appealed after a judge ruled in 2012 that the lawsuit had no merit because application program interfaces like Java were not protected under U.S. copyright laws.
This case shows how complex intellectual property litigation can be when infringement is not clear. Experienced business law attorneys may urge their clients to settle such matters rather than engage in protracted and expensive litigation, and they could recommend alternative dispute resolution strategies when negotiations become deadlocked.