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Oracle demands $9.3bn from Google over Java APIs in Android

Oracle is demanding damages of $9.3 billion from Google in its intellectual property dispute against the company over the Android operating system. 

The demand is the latest chapter in the long-running disagreement between the two companies over the Dalvik Java virtual machine (JVM) used to run apps on the Android operating system up to version 4.4, also known as KitKat. 

Oracle has argued that although Java is open source the APIs required to use it aren’t. Google is perfectly entitled to use Java in Android, but Google must pay Oracle a generous licence fee for doing so.

Oracle filed suit against Google in August 2010 and Dalvik was subsequently replaced by the Android Runtime, which compiles Android apps to native machine code upon installation, circumventing Oracle’s Java API intellectual property claims. 

The court case, however, goes on. 

The arguments against Oracle’s stance in the industry have been far-reaching, including claims that it could set a precedent that would wipe the premise of open-source software off the map, at least as we know it today.

Notwithstanding this, however, Oracle has claimed that Android has “destroyed” the Java market, while Google maintains that APIs constitute “fair use”. Google has won twice, and Oracle has successfully appealed twice, making way for the current action.

Oracle wants $475m damages and an $8.83bn profit share of Android from 2010 up to Lollipop. Marshmallow, the current version of the OS, is not included in the action.

Google has said that even if it is guilty, the code infringement of 37 APIs represents a tiny amount of the overall codebase, and the figure it has in mind is more like $100 million at most. It will nevertheless fight tooth and nail against it anyway.

A pre-trial hearing is set for 27 April and the trial itself will start on 9 May.

Google has already lost a battle to take the matter to the Supreme Court, despite feeling that judges in the earlier trial didn’t understand the subject matter on which they had to rule.

As ever, there is no guarantee that whatever decision is made will be the final chapter. Appeal and counter-appeal will continue for some time before US law is actually clarified. 

computing-open-source-summitComputing is holding an Enterprise Open Source Summit in London on 6th July. Attendance is free for qualifying end users. To register and for a full agenda, please see Computing’s events website

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