Lady Justice

You probably heard that a partial decision was made in the Oracle versus Google lawsuit this afternoon. Nobody won, nobody lost (except us end-users, who will have to pay for all this somehow), and in reality things have only just begun to get interesting. If you're a lawyer, or pretend to be a lawyer on the Internet, you have plenty of places to get into fancy discussions, using words like discovery and writ, but I'm just here to try to break it down so that the average Joe (or Jane, or Jerry) can get a grasp on what's happening.

This was just the first phase of the trial. Judge Alsup has thrown most of the suit out of court already, leaving two sections to decide  -- 37 Java API's, and their documentation. We'll start with the question about the documentation, because it's easy -- the jury found that Google did not infringe or unfairly take from the documentation. This means that the jury doesn't think that Google read how the code in question works, then stole the idea to do it their way.

The second question being decided today is a bit more muddy. When asked if Oracle had proven that Google "infringed the overall structure, sequence and organization of copyrighted works", they responded yes, that they believe Oracle did prove this point. However, they could not decide if this structure, sequence and organization should be allowed to be patented copyrighted in the first place.  After reaching an impasse several times about the validity of copyright and fair-use, judge Alsup eventually told the jurors to act as if they were able to be copyrighted and will determine the fair use question later. 

Phase two now begins, and we expect more (and more) motions, fighting, and money being spent in the coming days and weeks. But what about that fair use question? That's important. If judge Alsup finds that the Java APIs in question, or APIs in general, fall under fair use law then it's all a moot point. Courts in the EU have found that software APIs are not subject to copyright or patent, and all fall under the fair use laws -- meaning it's fair for anyone to use them. Many feel that judge Alsup will rule the same way, and all this was for nothing.

We're not lawyers. We don't pretend to be lawyers, don't play lawyers on TV and didn't even sleep at a Holiday Inn Express last night. We're tech nerds, smartphone enthusiasts, and Android fans. All we know is that one group of millionaires is arguing with another group of millionaires about who gets what percentage of our money. Of course, both Google and Oracle claim victory, official statements are after the break. We'll keep an eye on things so you don't have to. Right now, I need an Excedrin and a whiskey sour.

More: Groklaw; The Verge

Google's official statement about today's proceedings --

We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that's for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims.

Oracle's official statement about today's proceedings --

Oracle, the nine million Java developers, and the entire Java community thank the jury for their verdict in this phase of the case. The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license and that its unauthorized fork of Java in Android shattered Java's central write once run anywhere principle. Every major commercial enterprise -- except Google -- has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms.