This action was the first of the so-called “smartphone war” cases tried to a jury. This order includes the findings of fact and conclusions of law on a central question tried simultaneously to the judge, namely the extent to which, if at all, certain replicated elements of the structure, sequence and organization of the Java application programming interface are protected by copyright.
In 2007, Google Inc., announced its Android software platform for mobile devices. In 2010, Oracle Corporation acquired Sun Microsystems, Inc., and thus acquired Sun’s interest in the popular programming language known as Java, a language used in Android. Sun was renamed Oracle America, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Oracle America (hereinafter simply “Oracle”) sued defendant Google and accused its Android platform as infringing Oracle’s Java-related copyrights and patents.
Both Java and Android are complex platforms. Both include “virtual machines,” development and testing kits, and application programming interfaces, also known as APIs. Oracle’s copyright claim involves 37 packages in the Java API. Copyrightability of the elements replicated is the only issue addressed by this order.
Due to complexity, the Court decided that the jury (and the judge) would best understand the issues if the trial was conducted in phases. The first phase covered copyrightability and copyright infringement as well as equitable defenses.
The second phase covered patent infringement. The third phase would have dealt with damages but was obviated by stipulation and verdicts. For the first phase, it was agreed that the judge would decide issues of copyrightability and Google’s equitable defenses and that the jury would decide infringement, fair use, and whether any copying was de minimis.
Significantly, all agreed that Google had not literally copied the software but had instead come up with its own implementations of the 37 API packages. Oracle’s central claim, rather, was that Google had replicated the structure, sequence and organization of the overall code for the 37 API packages.
For their task of determining infringement and fair use, the jury was told it should take for granted that the structure, sequence and organization of the 37 API packages as a whole was copyrightable. This, however, was not a final definitive legal ruling. One reason for this instruction was so that if the judge ultimately ruled, after hearing the phase one evidence, that the structure, sequence and organization in question was not protectable but was later reversed in this regard, the court of appeals might simply reinstate the jury verdict.
In this way, the court of appeals would have a wider range of alternatives without having to worry about an expensive retrial. Counsel were so informed but not the jury.
Each side was given seventeen hours of “air time” for phase one evidence (not counting openings, closings or motion practice). In phase one, as stated, the parties presented evidence on copyrightability, infringement, fair use, and the equitable defenses.
As to the compilable code for the 37 Java API packages, the jury found that Google infringed but deadlocked on the follow-on question of whether the use was protected by fair use. As to the documentation for the 37 Java API packages, the jury found no infringement.
As to certain small snippets of code, the jury found only one was infringing, namely, the nine lines of code called “rangeCheck.” In phase two, the jury found no patent infringement across the board. (Those patents, it should be noted, had nothing to do with the subject addressed by this order.)
The entire jury portion of the trial lasted six weeks.
This order addresses and resolves the core premise of the main copyright claims, namely, whether the elements replicated by Google from the Java system were protectable by copyright in the first place. No law is directly on point.
This order relies on general principles of copyright law announced by Congress, the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit.