Key Android Developer Outlines Code in Oracle v Google Case

AH 2015 Android LOGO 23

Google’s ongoing court case with Oracle had its fifth day on Friday, which was quite an eventful day in the courtroom. The $9.3 billion dollar courtroom war saw testimony from both sides, along with more cross-examination by Annette Hurst. With the day starting out with a pre-recorded statement from Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle. The jury was also shown video in which he spoke very highly of Android and, in general, seemed pleased to see new Java projects coming out of the woodwork. The former Chief Open Source Officer at Sun before it was bought out, Simon Phipps, also testified that Sun had never sought to stop any projects using the Java API. Upon cross examination by Oracle lawyer Lisa Simpson, he did acknowledge that Apache had sought a license for Java in Apache Harmony at one point, but did not technically need the license to implement Java.

The star of the show for the day was Dan Bornstein, one of the key programmers for Android, the man who actually named the Dalvik Virtual Machine that had been in use from Android’s inception all the way up until Android version 5.0 Lollipop. After drawing a stick-figure cartoon to demonstrate the role of declaring code, which allows a program to call an API, he explained that he and his team felt that Java was free to use, like any other programming language, declarations and all. He went on to say that Android was, at its inception, a hodgepodge of bits of open-source code from all around, mostly Apache Harmony, which pulled most of its code from Java. There were a large number of original bits written at Google as well, to enable functions that Java and Apache Harmony would otherwise not have, such as real-time multitasking.


When it came time for his cross-examination, he came face-to-face with Annette Hurst’s courtroom prowess. She began with a set of questions about avoiding the use of code under incompatible licenses, such as the GNU license used by Classpath. Hurst insinuated that Bornstein instructed contractors and team members that such code absolutely could not be used. Bornstein, questioned about such directives, said that “We did not want to use code, as much as possible, that used that license,” implying that such code could be used, but should be avoided if possible. The JDK source code, the end-all be-all of the Java core, fell under such a license, while Apache Harmony, which contained JDK bits, did not. Hurst revealed that Bornstein, in company emails, had instructed programmers to scrub a number of terms, such as patent and Sun, from Android’s code, and jokingly referred to Java as “the J-word”. In some places, this technically constituted alteration of the JDK APIs, which was illegal under fair use laws and applicable licenses, as only the owner of an API can alter it. Court is set to resume on Monday.