A US judge has blasted Oracle’s defence when it tried to get a jury verdict against it set aside.
For those who came in late Google successfully made its case to a jury last month that its use of Java APIs in Android was “fair use,” and the verdict rejected Oracle’s claim that the mobile system infringed its copyrights.
Oracle filed a motion arguing that the judge should decide as a matter of law that fair use didn’t cover it. However US District Judge William Alsup shot down the motion on Wednesday and also denied Google’s motion making similar arguments.
Alsup defends how he ran the trial. The evidence and instructions presented to the jury were a mix of mandates from the appeals court, which overruled Alsup on the key issue of API copyrightability, and modifications urged by both sides’ lawyers.
“The final jury charge culminated an exhaustive and iterative process of proposals by the judge followed by critiques by counsel,” Alsup wrote.
He then goes on to dismantle Oracle’s suggestion that its case was so strong that the jury’s verdict should be ignored.
“Oracle has portrayed the Java programming language as distinct from the Java API library, insisting that only the language itself was free for all to use,” Alsup wrote.
He added that in order to write the Java programming language, 62 classes (and some of their methods), spread across three packages within the Java API library, must be used or the language itself will fail.
The 62 “necessary” classes are mixed with “unnecessary” ones in the Java API library and it takes experts to comb them out. Oracle said it was fair to use the 62 “necessary” classes given that the Java programming language itself was free and open to use without a license.
He said that Oracle’s argument boils down to saying that it was okay to use the language, and okay to use the 62 “necessary” classes, but that Google “should have scrambled the functionalities among a different taxonomy of packages and classes.”
This would mean programmers would have to learn two different systems of “structure, sequence and organisation,” and the jury could reasonably have found that such a division “would have fomented confusion and error.”
He gave this analogy. All typewriters use the same QWERTY keyboard—imagine the confusion and universal disservice if every typewriter maker had to scramble the keyboard. Cleary he has not heard of the French keyboard that does just this.
Alsup said that Oracle’s cross-examination had been harsh and focused on character assassination of Schwartz who it claimed resented Oracle for its treatment of Schwartz after the buyout.
“That Oracle resorted to such impeachment underscored how fact-bound the issue was, another classic role of a jury to resolve.”
Alsup said that the jury could have reasonably concluded that Google’s copying of a “tiny fraction of one percent” of the copyrighted works represented the “bare minimum… to preserve inter-system consistency in usage.” He thought it was reasonable to decide that Android “caused no harm” to the market for the copyrighted work, which was Java Standard Edition, built for use on desktop and laptop computers.
Java Mobile Edition was in decline before Android was even released and the jury could have determined Android had no negative impact “beyond the tailspin already predicted within Sun,” Alsup said.
The comments are important because they show what Oracle’s appeal plan will be and how Alsup is defending how he ran the court.