Phase 1 (Copyrights) of Oracle Vs Google draw to a close. The headline news is of course Google is found to had infringed on Oracle’s copyrights.
The first thing I noticed about the jury verdict is mainstream (non-tech) media, BBC included, simply mention the jury verdict without much fanfare, unlike when the trial started where they devoted precious broadcast time to interviews etc. That was my first sign that the jury verdict is dull and unexciting. Nothing that will shattered the ground. Believe me, if Oracle had won big, i.e., API is copyrightable or Oracle won big sum of money, we will have tech experts all over the world chipping in their opinion on air.
After reading and digesting the jury’s verdict, it does not sounds as bad as it is for Google. The point that strike at the heart of things for me is that the API Documentation was ruled to be non-infringing but the API is. The former says to me that the jury understands the difference between idea and presentation of the idea. The former is not protected by copyright, but the latter do. That is because the API text that they had to examine to decide whether it is protected by copyright is of the type ‘A dog bit me’ vs ‘I was bitten by a dog’ because there are limited ways to convey the message that I had the misfortune of encountering a dog. I am of course speculating, but if they were more skilled in the art of programming, they will find that API is the same thing, i.e., there are extremely limited ways, i.e. one, to express yourself.
The other important point for me is they uphold the common sense interpretation of SUN’s words when it comes to the use of Java Language by finding Google has reasons to believe that it do not need a license from SUN to use the API. Once more we see juries holds corporation and to their words, even after they try to twist their own words.
The hilarious point is while Google was found to be infringing on the 9 lines it copied verbatim, Oracle has no chance of collecting any money. The reason? Their experts rated the monetary value of those lines at zero! Even though the multiples of zero is zero, the judge still cannot allow Oracle to claim more than “statutory damage”, partly to hold Oracle to their words and while the ultimate value here is zero, it might not be zero elsewhere.
Both parties, after hearing the verdict, is reported to react differently as expected. However, without analyzing the verdict, one might find it surprising that it is all smile on Google’s table, but all gloom at Oracle’s. Well, they were all smarter, way smarter than me.
One thing I will say about Google’s lawyer: For the money Google paid them, and they while they are good at practicing law in general, I cannot help but feel that they falls into one blunder after another. Lindholm’s emails is one and there are other minor blunders as well. On the Jury’s verdict, they failed to argue their case: (1) Google infringed on API (as API is assumed to be copyrightable) but they did not convince the jury on fair use, and (2) Oracles give reason to Google to believe it can use Java’s API _but_ was wrong no reasonable to assume it does not need a license. Those are big, big blunders. Arguably one pay lawyers’ big buck to secure a better change of winning on those two grounds. Had Google’s case not being as strong as it is I wonder whether Google had chosen the wrong set of lawyers.
Google’s best hope now is for the judge to find that API is not copyrightable. The judge is taking advise from wherever he can. I am a bit surprised to see him asking for the parties to submit what they think about the recent European Court decision that API is not copyrightable the very next day that decision was made available. I bet Oracle would not had welcomed the decision and Google is giggling all over it. Just one more bad luck for Oracle. The card is actually stacked against Oracle and I am sure they know it. However, US is a different jurisdiction from Europe, so anything can still happen.