Oracle, Google Trial: Who Wins Round One? - InformationWeek

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4/27/2012
06:38 PM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Oracle, Google Trial: Who Wins Round One?

In the first phase of the case, concerning copyrights, Google's arguments have been more compelling than Oracle's, to date. Patent testimony is still to come.

Oracle's patent and copyright infringement against Google will reach a milestone next week when the two companies make their closing arguments in the copyright phase of the trial.

Oracle is suing Google because it believes Google's Android operating system infringes its copyrighted Java APIs and violates its patents.

The first round looks like it will go to Google.

Oracle has scored a few points: The Oracle legal team has established that Google worried about obtaining a Java license. They got Google's chief Java architect Joshua Bloch to admit that it's possible he relied on Sun's copyrighted code by mistake. Through aggressive questioning, They made some Google witnesses seem conveniently forgetful and evasive. And they managed to prompt former Sun CEO Scott McNealy to suggest that a blog written by his successor, Jonathan Schwartz, didn't amount to an official endorsement of Google's use of Java in Android.

[ For more background on the case, see Oracle Grills Google's Schmidt, Rubin. ]

McNealy's testimony has a problem: As one Groklaw reader noted, Schwartz's blog certainly appears to have been used for disseminating official Sun communications.

But Google has scored more dramatically. Oracle had one of its invalidated patents re-validated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. But the judge in the case, William Alsup, refused to allow Oracle to bring its restored patent into play, citing a previous commitment to Google about the patents in the case.

Google's legal team has forced Oracle to define its copyrighted work as the whole of its APIs rather than as a collective work--were individual APIs counted as works in their own right, any copying would be be more substantial in relation to the scaled-down whole, undermining Google's fair use claim.

Previously, Oracle asserted, "The separate creations in J2SE are the copyrighted works at issue, not the entire platform."

How did Google manage this? Its legal team recognized that Oracle hadn't provided documents that prove that Sun registered the Java APIs as a collective work. The copyright certificate entered into evidence covers the work as a whole. Without proof of a collective work registration, Google's prospects look much better.

What's more, the arguments advanced by Google's legal team, particularly by Robert Van Nest and by Bruce Baber, have been particularly persuasive.

The upcoming patent portion of the trial could go either way. But to this point, Oracle's copyright claim looks flimsy.

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