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After going to the Supreme Court of the United States, one of the biggest grudges in the history of Silicon Valley has finally come to an end

via:博客园     time:2021/4/8 20:27:56     readed:162


By Du Chen

Editor / Vicky Xiao

Source / guixingren123

There is no eternal enemy, only eternal interests.

On Monday, April 5, the protracted struggle finally came to a satisfactory end in the eyes of most science and technology practitioners

The U.S. Supreme Court held that Google reasonably used Oracle's Java API in Android, and ruled that Google won the lawsuit with a ratio of 6-2.


This latest judgment not only helped Google avoid a $8.8 billion compensation, but also reestablished the legality and justice of the company's copying Oracle Java API in large proportion.

The U.S. high court also overturned the previous lower court's ruling in favor of Oracle in 2014. Earlier, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that companies had copyright in the API they developed.

This prerogative judgment is very unfriendly to the majority of third-party developers, because it may mean that they may have to give up using the current API and develop their own software from scratch in order to avoid being charged by copyright hooligans.

Therefore, the latest decision of the high court is even more good news for these third-party developers, especially those small and medium-sized developers who do not have much copyright and legal budget.



Behind the long grudge that has spanned ten years and gone through three levels of courts and two appeals, there are not only the glorious challenges of young technology companies to vested interests, but also the shameful sneaking and intriguing. Google and Oracle both claim that they are victims of justice, and their claims are legally supported. But at the same time, the "take all" rule of the technology industry makes them have to do everything possible to safeguard their own interests.

But generally speaking, the ten-year struggle around Android / Java API should be viewed from the perspective of innovation, as well as from the perspective of ordinary consumers and small and medium-sized developers: who promotes innovation, who tries to stifle competitors in the cradle; whose proposition can represent the interests of more people, and whose proposition is only to stabilize their own city.

In the end, the answer is obvious: Google has taken the lead in this case, while Oracle has been carrying the negative image of copyright / patent hooligan in the past, and has failed to win back its fate even when the former US government publicly supported it.

Today, let's review the antecedents, midway and consequences of this epic Silicon Valley giant.

How can we call for copying about big companies


A brand new operating system doesn't mean everything about it is brand new. A platform can't succeed on its own. It also needs the support of developers. Therefore, Google needs developers to start developing programs for Android in the future as soon as possible. The top priority at that time was to identify a development language.

Out of the idea of compliance operation, Google dispatched engineer Tim Lindholm to start negotiations with sun, seeking sun's authorization for Google to use OSS J2ME JVM.



Google made the decision to directly copy the original java api code of sun in large sections, made some fine adjustments, and finally released it in 2008.


The above contents are all from the e-mail records obtained from Oracle's investigation and evidence collection when it first sued Google. Some of the e-mails were tried by Google qianfang not to be adopted by the court, but they were finally not able to avoid being made public.

It can be said that Google still felt guilty when it did these things. At the Android conference, Google engineers inevitably had to demonstrate the technology and answer the questions raised by interested developers. Rubin told the team at that time that all demonstrations and answers must be one-on-one, and they could not demonstrate in front of any sun employees or lawyers.

In Oracle's view, Google's behavior is a naked infringement of copyright. The most powerful evidence for it is that in addition to the above-mentioned Google internal e-mails, sun successfully applied for the Java copyright certificate in 2004


According to the testimony of safra Catz, the CFO of Oracle at that time (the current CEO), because Oracle's products and services are largely based on Java, she was worried that sun would be acquired by other companies in the future, which would cause Oracle to lose control of Java and increase its business risk, so she decided to acquire sun.

(Catz later explained that she was worried about IBM.)

At that time, Google did not have a good face.


The boss threw the pot, and the subordinates were really a little difficult to do.

Although it can't afford to lose face, Google's proposition is more convincing

The Java language developed by sun is available to the public;

Google uses free and open source technology to develop Android;

Sun has publicly approved Android's use of Java;

Google's use of Java API is fair use.




In his opinion, sun's intention has always been to make the Java language and API available to anyone for free, he said in court. Sun's way of making money is to earn licensing fees from companies that want to promote themselves with Java trademarks and Java compatibility.

According to Schmidt's estimation, sun's asking price in the authorization negotiation process is about $30 million to $50 million; Rubin thinks that sun's final price is about $28 million. According to Google's market value of about $52 billion in 2005, this small amount of money is a drop in the bucket (even the legal costs of fighting Oracle for so many years may be more). But why was Google so poor at that time?


I believe many people have a similar impression on this lawsuit.

Tough cases and indecisive juries

From a high perspective, the case of Oracle suing Google for Java API infringement is very simple: copying is copying; in the specific trial process, the case is very complex, covering copyright, patent rights, fair use and other aspects.

This may also be the first time that trial judge William Alsup and 12 members of the jury have encountered such a complex technological legal problem.

Finally, on May 7, 2012, the jury delivered part of their verdict that Google had indeed infringed Oracle's Java related copyright.


The judge even directly reprimanded Oracle lawyers: wasn't it the jury trial you wanted? Now that we have the judgment opinion (though partial), do you want me to judge?

The debate over patents and fair use continued in the days following the first trial. After more than ten days and nights of jury debate, the complete first instance jury opinion was finally delivered

Google did infringe the copyright of 37 Java APIs owned by Oracle, but did not infringe Oracle's patent rights.

The whole process of the jury's discussion is somewhat similar to the familiar movie twelve angry men


At the end of May 2012, the jury found that Google's copying of Java API constituted a reasonable use of Oracle technology.

A month later, a major reversal happened again, and Oracle's last hope of victory was killed by the judge.

Although the foreword jury found that Google infringed the Java copyright, Alsup, according to its own interpretation of the copyright law, went beyond the jury's opinion and made a negative ruling against Oracle: in fact, only 3% of the 37 Java APIs that Oracle claimed to have been infringed The code of Oracle is from the company, and it does not belong to the scope of the current copyright law. The rest comes from Google, so the infringement lawsuit of Oracle is rejected.

You may want to ask: how powerful the judge is! How dare you do that?

First, even if there is a jury, the judge can still make different judgments;


Google took advantage of the victory and asked Oracle to bear its legal costs of $4.03 million; later, the court ordered Oracle to pay Google $1.13 million.

Oracle was dissatisfied with the fact that the judge trial (as opposed to the jury trial) and chose to appeal.

After endless appeals, the Supreme Court was finally forced to open

Two years later, on May 9, 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the federal circuit made a judgment that once again put the confident Google at a disadvantage and cast a shadow on the entire software development industry.

According to the new judgment, the lower court has failed to correctly understand the nature of the case and its duty to distinguish what is protected by copyright, what is not, or to punish the real infringement of rights and interests. The court of Appeal held that Oracle's Java API was sufficiently original and protected by copyright law.


There is no problem that there should be copyright in the software industry. If it is an authorized software, it will pay if there is a license fee; if it is an open source software, anyone who refers to, learns from or directly uses the technology provided by a third party for redevelopment should strictly abide by the license certificate, and use it within the scope of the license.

But at least for API, authoritative experts and front-line practitioners believe that the new judgment of the court of appeal has given Oracle too much benefit and is unfair.

This decision creates a dangerous precedent. Any third-party developer who uses the existing API to develop new products and services may become the object of copyright charges in the future, or become an infringer when unable to pay.

Text creators don't like to be copied, and code writers don't want their projects to be copied and pasted without restraint. But in the field of software, those who invent a new thing from scratch are always very few. The way software works in this era determines that most of our so-called innovations are on the shoulders of others, which is an indisputable fact.

However, according to the ruling of the court of appeal, in order to avoid legal risks, developers will not be allowed to re invent the wheel and develop their own technology to replace the existing API, which will reduce the efficiency and curb the interoperability of the technology, further split the technology market and hinder the development of innovation.

In October 2014, Google submitted an application, hoping that the high court could hear the case.

Unfortunately, the Supreme People's court, which had one month to reply, spent more than half a year, and finally informed Google in June 2015 that it would not take over the case. The reason was that copyright was too small to be taken over.

The bitter thing is that the lower courts have to ruminate again on this pile of old sesame seeds and rotten corn, and they have to recruit a new group of jurors to continue their meetings and quarrels. As the evidence presented in court is the same as that of that year, and the new verdict in 2016 is the same as that of that year, the new jury looked at the records of the previous generation's quarrels in that year and stood on Google's side.

This gives Google a key breakthrough: note that one of the reasons Oracle last appealed to the federal court, as we mentioned earlier, was that the judge of the lower court made a verdict contrary to the jury's opinion. After the retrial, the court of appeal did the same. This means that Google now has enough legal basis to seek to overturn an appeal court decision against it.

In January 2019, Google again submitted a petition to the high court for a hearing of the case. This time, the high court was forced to open.

The controversy of the whole case once again exploded: the high court first politely asked the government what opinion it had in the case, while the then trump government undoubtedly stood on the side of Oracle and asked the high court to veto Google's request; on the other side, it included Microsoft, red hat, Mozilla and IBM Hundreds of technology companies, organizations and individuals, including top stakeholders, have jointly written in support of Google.

The high court finally agreed to hear the case. The first oral debate was scheduled for March 24, 2020, after COVID-19 postponed it to the October 7th line.

At that time, justice Ginsberg had just passed away, and his successor had not yet been sworn in. There were only eight justices in the high court. The probability of a 4-4 draw increased, which was slightly unfavorable to Google.

On October 7 Although the eight justices tried their best to be impartial in the online oral debate, they still gave people the impression that they were more inclined to Google's side in the interrogation session. Even conservative justice gorsach did not stand on Oracle's side, but focused on Google's proposition of the Seventh Amendment to the constitution, that is, the decision of the federal court of appeal to reject the verdict of the lower court jury Justice.


The justices of the high court are all the most authoritative and respected senior figures in the legal field of the United States, but at the same time, because of the more complex topics of concern, no one has any in-depth understanding of this issue like judge Alsop of the California district court. They rely more on the past cases of the high court and local courts, as well as their own interpretation of the law to start the case.

In order to help the justices who know nothing about Java API copyright and software interoperability to better understand the case and their own opinions, Google and Oracle lawyers have to do everything possible to compare java to all kinds of strange things, such as a book containing thousands of golden sentences in Song Fei Zhuan.

Oracle uses Harry Potter as a strange analogy in its reply to the high court

Chief Justice Roberts questioned Google lawyers:

Google lawyers tactfully use this metaphor to respond to the Justice:

Your honor, I think this metaphor can help us. You can see it like this: if you hold a patent for a safe, it can really prevent us from entering. But if you're writing a manual about how to steal a safe, it doesn't mean you have the exclusive right to do so.


One of the most interesting and easy to understand metaphors for non-technical people is justice Breyer. He compares Java API to QWERTY keyboard, or more specifically, QWERTY as a keyboard layout:

I see it this way, if you compare it to a QWERTY keyboard. In the beginning, typewriters didn't need QWERTY keyboard, but, my God, if you allow someone to have the copyright of QWERTY keyboard, doesn't he control all typewriters in the world? This should not have anything to do with copyright.


If you're interested in these metaphors, GitHub user kemitchell summarizes all the major metaphors (which may have missed a few minor ones) that have appeared in this one and a half hour oral debate, as well as the recording and shorthand documents of the debate. A link can be found at the end of the article.



Justice Breyer wrote in his opinion:

As a part of the computer interface, these copied codes are fundamentally bound with concepts that are not in the scope of Copyright (the organization of API) and the creation of new creative expression (Google's independent code). Unlike many other computer programs, the value of the copied code is significantly reflected in the investment of users (program developers) who already know the API system. Given this significant difference, fair use does not harm the copyright of computer software that Congress legislates to protect.

Google's limited copying of Oracle Java API is a revolutionary use. Google has only copied part of the code to help programmers continue to work in different computing environments without giving up being familiar with the programming language. Part of the code. The goal of Google's action is to create a different computing environment (Smartphone) and create a software platform (Android) to help achieve this goal. Court records show in a variety of ways that Google's redevelopment of the API can further help develop computer programs. Therefore, the purpose of Google's behavior is in line with the legal goal of copyright.


It is worth noting that justice Breyer also clarified that the fair use part of the judgment only applies to the computer technology category of API mentioned in this case, which does not overturn the previous judgment of the High Court on other copyright cases.

In general, the high court's decision has given developers concerned about this protracted case a shot in the arm

At the same time, the judgment also sounded an alarm for copyright hooligans:




https://github.com/kemitchell/writing.kemitchell.com/blob/master/_ posts/2020-10-12-Oracle-Google- Metaphors.md

https://www.supremecourt.gov/oral_ arguments/audio/2020/18-956

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