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Oracle v Google – Patent, then Copyright Suit

Oracle sued Google for both patent and copyright infringement, alleging that Google’s Android smartphone operating system was too similar to its proprietary software. The jury determined that Google did not infringe Oracle’s patents, but did infringe the JAVA application programming interfaces, or “APIs,” copyrighted software which Oracle got when it purchased Sun Microsystems in 2009. However, the jury’s determination of copyright infringement did not survive because its APIs software was held not “protectable” (because Google violated copyrights in just a few lines of code). The judge’s ruling that the APIs were not copyrightable left few facts on which the copyright infringement verdict could hold.

As a result of the jury’s verdict, and the court’s subsequent “cleanup,” the two sides stipulated (agreed) that Google owes Oracle no money because Oracle could not show any damages “attributable to” the one copyright infringement finding that remained.

This stipulation is not the “raising of a ‘white flag’” by Google, but rather, a near painless way for it to get the case to the appeals court (this one finding of infringement and statutory damages, even if willful, would result in a maximum recovery of only $150,000 – and a minimum recovery of $200…), where it believes it can defeat Google’s fair use defense on the other copyright claims, and eventually obtain a verdict for much more in “profits attributable to the infringement.” It will be interesting to see what the Ninth Circuit does with this very interesting case.

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