The Oracle v. Google trial draws sketchy image of Android’s Java use

The Oracle v. Google trial draws sketchy image of Android’s Java use

In the back-and-forth that is Google versus Oracle, lawyers for both sides are doing their diligence early on, but Oracle’s team may be serving up damage Google can’t recover from.

The lawsuit itself regards Android, which is widely used and written in Java, a language created by Sun Microsystems. When Oracle purchased Sun, it acquired Java as well as all its various APIs — which are copyrighted.

To that, Oracle is claiming Google has no right to use Java APIs for Android, which naturally feels more like Oracle wanting a piece of the pie that makes Google so much money (mainly via app sales and as a platform for advertising). Google argues its use of Java APIs for Android falls under fair-use, as Java is open; Google’s lawyer went so far as to call it a ‘gift to the world’ from Sun.

Credit: Gil C /

Oracle’s lawyers are doing a great job of challenging that position, though. While Google’s lawyers argue those APIs are a ‘small part’ of Android’s codebase, Oracle’s team is doing a solid job of pointing out how Google may have been obfuscating its ‘fair use’ of them.

In questioning Android creator Andy Rubin, Oracle points out that Google offered him a lot of money to get Android built for smartphones quickly, and incentivized its popularity.

Oracle also pointed to an email Rubin received from a colleague, Tim Lindholm, stating that Google founders (and by then, owners of Android) Sergey Brin and Larry Page asked for “technical alternatives to Java.”

“We’ve been over a bunch of these, and we think they all suck,” wrote Lindholm. “We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need.”

android marshmallow mascot

Later on, Oracle questioned Dan Bornstein, a top Android engineer who has since left Google. While Bornstein remained confident Google’s use of Java APIs was fair, lawyers pointed out that he instructed a contractor to eliminate the “J-word” — Java — from Android’s codebase alongside the terms [sic] sun, oracle, orcl, java, jvm, jdk, jre, jcp, jsr, patent* and licens*.

It all paints a picture that Google knew it was ripping Oracle off, or at least wanted to avoid litigation down the line (which it was obviously not able to do). If Oracle can prove Google knowingly used copyrighted APIs without a license, it could stand to walk away with $9 billion.

We’re also reminded that when The Next Web reached out to Google regarding Swift being entertained as a first-class language for Android, it specifically cited this trial as reason not to comment.

Android 3

Hard evidence is tough to navigate in court, but Google has former CEO Eric Schmidt and ex-Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz claiming Android’s use of Java is fine as-is. While neither man is currently at the helm of either company, arguing intent may be all Google has left.

Right now, Oracle has some fairly damning evidence against Google, but that tide can change easily if Google has an ace up its sleeve. If you want to follow the trial more closely, we suggest visiting Ars Technica, which is doing a bang-up job of reporting from the courtroom.

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