Oracle vs. Google, one of the biggest and most controversial cases in the history of the tech world, has finally ended. For now, Google’s wallet and the future of open source are safe. It should be mentioned, of course, that this will not, by any means, be the first time that this same fight has fallen into the hands of a jury. Since 2010, Oracle has been trying time and time again to drag Google through court over their use of 37 APIs pulled from Java in the commercial smash hit that is Android. For this most recent incarnation of the landmark case, which thankfully will not cause a massive string of lawsuits and threats of lawsuits that reshapes or outright upends the software development industry, the craziness is pretty much over. Make no mistake; this case was absolutely insane and, for some, may have even proven difficult to follow. For those who want a quick and dirty recap of the biggest and craziest highlights, read on.
In 2009, Oracle bought up Sun, creator of the Java programming language. The world’s most popular language was in use for commercial products by tons of entities, but nobody seemed to be doing better because of Java than Google. Oracle tried to get them to buy a license, Google did not comply, and the rest is history. After the first set of trials, Google won because courts determined that an API could not be copyrighted. An appeals court overturning that decision is what lands us where we are today. A massive amount of Java-based code was the cornerstone of Android, but functioned hand in hand with Google’s own code to make it all work together, as clarified by one of the lead programmers for Android. This tied in to allegations that Google had tried to scrub a good number of Java-related terms from Android’s codebase. Andy Rubin also hit the stand for additional code and open-source licensing clarification. Grilled to an objection-eliciting degree by Oracle’s lawyer, he seemingly infuriated her by keeping utterly cool. At one point, Oracle referenced Harry Potter – they said that what Google did amounted to making small alterations, but leaving the chapter titles and topic sentences in there.
Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz took her moment on the stand and explained that Oracle did not buy Sun simply to sue Google for Java, but mostly to keep it away from IBM, who they were scared would… well, do exactly what Oracle did, actually. Licensing deals abounded, but Google’s unwillingness to play ball landed them in court. It should be noted that, at one point, there was talk within Google of licensing Java from Sun, but they ended up seeing no need to license out a free and open source programming language, according to Eric Schmidt. Sun’s former CEO did make an appearance, and said that Google was using Java in the same ways as many others and Sun would have had no issue with it. Catz also told an interesting story; she ran into Google’s head lawyer at a Bat Mitzvah She was told by him that Google was special, to which she replied, “Thou shalt not steal.” Google also wound up bringing in an expert computer scientist from a university before it was all said and done, who helped to prove how little Java code was actually in Android. A good number of high-profile names from Google took the stand, including Larry Page and Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Oracle also pointed to a figure of over $40 billion, saying it was Google’s Android revenue. Larry Page disputed this, saying it was revenue from all over the ecosystem, for manufacturers and developers as well as Google.
Arguments also cropped up involving 9 lines of code that were allegedly copied due to a former Sun employee joining the Android project, a failed phone OS from Oracle, and the nature of the hamburger in fast food and its relation to APIs. The fairly crazy landmark case may have ended in Google’s favor for now, but it’s unlikely to end here. No matter what the jury chooses, neither side has really been vindicated from the future possibility of the case going through an appeals court and popping up again.