You are here

Oracle sued Google over a hamburger, Java trial jury told

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 07:27

[SAN FRANCISCO] Oracle Corp sued Google over the equivalent of a hamburger.

That's a Google lawyer's message to jurors at the companies' copyright infringement trial. Robert Van Nest showed the jury a menu with only "hamburger" written on it and likened it to the packages, or APIs, of Java programming code Oracle claims Google stole to build its Android operating system.

"The API is hamburger there, it's the menu," Mr Van Nest said Monday in his closing arguments in what will be the first and, if Google wins, last phase of a trial.

The exhibit also showed two burgers, one simple and the other garnished. The message: putting the word "burger" on a menu isn't unique - it's what's behind the word, how you build your burger, that counts.

Mr Van Nest backed up his theme by reminding jurors that Sun Microsystems, which developed Java, blessed and appreciated Google's use of the "free and open" code.

He cited testimony from two key witnesses, Eric Schmidt, the Alphabet Inc chairman who served as Sun's chief technology officer, and relied especially heavily on former Sun chief executive officer Jonathan Schwartz.

Having adopted the hamburger comparison Mr Schwartz used in his testimony, Mr Van Nest showed Mr Schwartz's quoted response to the question of whether Sun marketed not just Java, but specifically the APIs as free and open.

"Absolutely, yes," Mr Schwartz said, according to Mr Van Nest. "It's fair to say that the testimony of these folks was very clear and very consistent, and largely unchallenged by Oracle," Mr Van Nest said.

Oracle, which acquired Sun in is seeking damages of as much as US$9 billion based on claims Android runs on critical components of illegally copied Java code.

Google has reaped US$21 billion in profit from the operating system used in 80 per cent of the world's mobile devices, Oracle says.

Besides the potential for one of the largest jury verdicts in US history, a win for Oracle could change how software is protected and licensed.

US District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco has told the jury it's already been established that the Internet giant infringed Oracle's copyrights on the code.

That finding, from a 2012 jury verdict and appeals court ruling, set the stage for the current trial phase over whether the copying was justified under the legal doctrine of fair use. If jurors find Google didn't make fair use of the copyrights, they will decide in a second phase whether Oracle is entitled to damages.

Witnesses for Google, including Mr Schmidt, have told jurors the company didn't need to license the Java APIs, which stand for application programming interfaces, to build Android. The Java APIs at the heart of the lawsuit are shortcuts programmers use to work across software platforms.

Oracle lawyers scored points in the trial, highlighting a disconnect between testimony under cross-examination and e-mails showing Google executives and engineers expressed concern as they built Android that they needed and didn't get a license for Java.

Some of the evidence shows Google was concerned failed licensing negotiations would trigger a lawsuit.

The case is Oracle America Inc v Google Inc, 10- cv-03561, US District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

BLOOMBERG