Google Won Again, But What Does That Mean?

macbook air with google homepage on the screen

The court battle the entire international tech world has been glued to is over. A federal jury took Google’s side in its copyright infringement battle against Oracle. The losing side claimed Google stole some of its software while developing the Android operating system, which is now the world’s most popular smartphone OS. Had Oracle won the case, it could have proven disastrous – and very expensive – for Google.

Technology Giants Battle It Out

But why was this case watched so closely? First, because it was Google vs. Oracle. That’s like looking out your window and seeing Godzilla duking it out with King Kong. It’s going to draw your eye. There’s a more practical reason for all the attention, though. What Google was accused of doing is a fairly common practice used to create a wide variety of software. If Oracle wins, there’s a definitive precedent that could land a horde of designers and developers in court.

Google vs. Oracle

But they lost. The jury in the case said Google’s use of 37 APIs in Android qualified as fair use. A Google spokesperson offered an understated victory dance, telling the media: “Today’s verdict that Android makes fair use of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and free programming languages to build innovative consumer products…”

Google’s Winning Argument

Google’s argument, from day one, smartly focused on the danger a different verdict posed for the entire development community. It defended its actions, sure, but directed more attention on an “everybody’s doing it” perspective. Oracle, meanwhile, was hoping that argument would get dismissed, leaving them with $9 billion in damages and effectively closing the door on any future creative use of owned or licensed APIs.

This isn’t the first time Google has won this case. The initial victory came back in 2012, but an appellate court said the case needed to go back to trial. Now it has, and, once again, Google won. Of course, it’s not over until it’s over, and Oracle is vowing to appeal. And why not, there’s a LOT of money at stake.

Roman Temkin is a real estate developer in NYC.

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