In what could change the dynamics of software development by tech giants, an appeals court in the US has ruled that Google violated copyright laws when it used Oracle’s open-source Java software to build the Android platform.
“There is nothing fair about taking a copyrighted work verbatim and using it for the same purpose and function as the original in a competing platform,” CNNMoney cited the ruling by a panel of three Federal Circuit judges as saying on Tuesday.
The ruling comes nearly eight years after Oracle accused Google of copyright infringement.
Claiming that it should receive $475 million in damages in addition to $8.8 billion relating to “profits apportioned to infringed Java copyrights”, Oracle had accused Google of illegally copying a key part of the Java platform into its Android operating system.
The Cloud major had said that Google made billions in profit for the search engine giant and crushing Java’s chance of success in smartphones, tablets and other products.
Java was developed by tech firm Sun Microsystems which was acquired by Oracle in 2010.
Google denied any wrongdoing. It argued that its use of Java is protected by the legal doctrine of “fair use”, which permits copying in some circumstances.
In 2012, the companies took the issue to court but the jury was unable to determine whether Google used Java application programming interfaces (APIs) fairly.
Two years later, an appeals court overturned the ruling and raised the question on Google’s “fair use” of Oracle’s technology.
In 2016, it was ruled that Google’s use of Oracle’s APIs was legal under the copyright law’s fair use doctrine, “which allows the free use of copyrighted material under specific circumstances”.
Oracle appealed the decision and the jury ruled in favour of the Cloud major on Tuesday.
While Oracle sees the ruling as the “decision that protects creators and consumers”, Google said it could appeal to the full slate of judges on the court.
“We are disappointed the court reversed the jury finding that Java is open and free for everyone. This type of ruling will make apps and online services more expensive for users. We are considering our options,” a Google spokesman was quoted as saying.
According to CNNMoney, another court would decide how much Google owes Oracle. As of 2016, Oracle was seeking $9.3 billion in damages from the tech giant.