by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 9th 2012 8:29pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 21st 2012 10:44am
from the procedural dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, May 31st 2012 3:46pm
from the a-bit-narrowly-focused dept
So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.As some have pointed out the ruling is somewhat narrowly focused just on these 37 APIs, but the principles involved in why those 37 APIs are not copyrightable certainly will apply to plenty of other APIs as well. The ruling itself (embedded below) is pretty thorough and detailed. We had noted earlier that Judge Alsup had admitted that he'd learned to code Java in order to better understand the case (and that he'd had a history of knowing other coding languages as well) -- and it shows. Rather than using braindead broad analogies that don't make much sense, as we see all too often in court rulings, Alsup gets to the heart of the matter and clearly understands what an API is and how it works. His ruling is actually a decent primer on some parts of code for those who have never coded.
It is true that the very same functionality could have been offered in Android without duplicating the exact command structure used in Java. This could have been done by re-arranging the various methods under different groupings among the various classes and packages (even if the same names had been used). In this sense, there were many ways to group the methods yet still duplicate the same range of functionality.
But the names are more than just names — they are symbols in a command structure wherein the commands take the form
java.package.Class.method()Each command calls into action a pre-assigned function. The overall name tree, of course, has creative elements but it is also a precise command structure — a utilitarian and functional set of symbols, each to carry out a pre-assigned function. This command structure is a system or method of operation under Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act and, therefore, cannot be copyrighted. Duplication of the command structure is necessary for interoperability.
From that, Alsup points out just how ridiculous this entire case has been -- and specifically notes that he's explaining the level of ridiculousness of Oracle's position for the benefit of the appeals court who will surely hear this case once Oracle appeals (and which almost certainly will be staffed with judges not nearly as clued-in as Judge Alsup).
Oracle has made much of nine lines of code that crept into both Android and Java. This circumstance is so innocuous and overblown by Oracle that the actual facts, as found herein by the judge, will be set forth below for the benefit of the court of appeals.He goes on to explain not just how insignificant the situation was, but he details how it happened and why it's crazy to consider it worthy of a copyright infringement suit. It's a pretty complete smackdown of Oracle's position.
Again, it is quite likely that Oracle will appeal, even though this ruling is so firm it might be smarter for Oracle to issue a giant apology to the tech community and just get on with doing business. That seems unlikely, of course, as Oracle probably hopes to find less knowledgeable judges on appeal. One hopes, however, that the appeals court judges will recognize the very, very thorough nature of Judge Alsup's ruling, and reject any appeal as well.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 23rd 2012 11:08am
from the there-goes-that-one dept
Groklaw has the details with "no" answers across the board:
Question 1: has Oracle proved by preponderance of evidence that Google infringed?
Claim 11: not proven
Question 2: not proven
Question 3: no answer, no response, not applicable.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, May 7th 2012 11:48am
from the if-it-was-fair-use,-it-wasn't-infringement dept
According to The Verge (who is in the court room), the jury also wasn't buying the claim that Google relied on Sun's statements saying that Google's use was okay. The jury's main problem with Google's claim here wasn't that Sun hadn't made clear that the use was acceptable. It was that there wasn't much evidence that Google actually relied on such claims from Sun. I can understand why the jury might claim this, but I wonder why it would matter. Given that Sun made clear that Google's use was acceptable, in what world could you later turn around and claim that its use was unacceptable?
Either way, the fact that the jury couldn't come to an answer on the fair use/de minimis questions effectively sinks the entire process. Google immediately asked the judge to declare a mistrial, and the judge has supposedly asked both companies to prepare arguments over whether or not a mistrial should be declared, so this is far from over.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Apr 25th 2012 2:03pm
from the it's-now-how-people-code dept
For starters, software often does not require the type of heavy investment that should result in a 20-year monopoly. Instead of expensive laboratories or years of testing for FDA approval, for example, you often just need a coder and a computer. Even complex programs don’t require 20 years of exclusivity to recoup their investment. Software patents are often not even necessary for successful businesses: Facebook and, yes, Google — never relied on software patents to grow their early businesses.Of course, tons of software developers recognize this implicitly. I know an awful lot of software developers in Silicon Valley. I can't think of a single one who thinks patents are a good thing or even remotely useful (and this includes many developers who have patents). In development circles, it seems that nearly everyone thinks patents are a waste of time and money. And that's because software doesn't work the way that the patent system envisions.
Software patents are also notoriously vague and difficult to understand, making it impossible for small inventors to navigate the system without expensive legal help. And that brings us to the most dangerous aspect of software patents: litigation.
It turns out that software patents are nearly five times more likely to be the subject of litigation as other patents. In fact, lawsuits surrounding software patents have more than tripled since 1999, and they have become part of the price of doing business in America. Take Spotify. After realizing much success in Europe, Spotify launched its U.S. product in July, and just weeks later it found itself facing a patent suit.
Perhaps most troubling, the patent system fails to recognize how people create and use technology. Software is fundamentally situated as a building-block technology. You write some code, and then I improve upon it — something the open source community has figured out. Google’s use of Java in its Android OS also demonstrates how innovators create, by making its own product and and incorporating some elements of the Java language (which, incidentally, Java’s creators have a history of supporting). And when those two come together, it results in an incredibly popular product, here the Android OS.It's the difference between an idea and actually bringing that idea to market. That difference is always ignored or underestimated by patent lawyers -- but developers know the difference. The patent system wasn't designed by software developers, though. And it shows.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Apr 17th 2012 8:01pm
from the shouldn't-have-gotten-this-far dept
Oracle has been quite public with its argument (pdf), which is mostly based on taking snippets from Google emails that suggest a need to license Java. The favorite of the bunch is this one:
They also point to some snippets of code that do appeared to be copied:
If you just see that side of it, you might be convinced, but the details suggest a much less convincing story. First off, there are serious concerns about whether or not an API even can be covered by copyright. In fact, before Sun was acquired by Oracle, Sun's own CTO had said that "internet specifications are not protectable under copyright," which (you might think) gives Google an implied go ahead to make use of the API. Furthermore, many of the email snippets that Oracle presents are taken out of context -- they show little snippets of big emails and pull from very very different time periods -- ranging from 2005 to 2010, when different factors applied. Oracle also scrubbed a blog from former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz in which he warmly welcomed Google to the Java family when the company launched Android.
Perhaps more damning: Larry Ellison himself in 2009 at the JavaOne event spoke about Google's Android development and how they were contributing code back to Java. Ellison himself was put on the stand and appeared to contradict his own depositions when it came time to discuss the specifics of the copyright. That can't go over well. Not only that, but he stumbled, and claimed he was "not sure" when asked specific questions:
On cross-examination, Google came out firing and the room got tense quickly. “Do you understand that no one owns the Java programming language?” lead counsel Robert Van Nest asked.Oracle's response, of course, will be that it just meant for developing apps, not for using the API -- but its other statements are a lot less clear on that. Either way, it seems pretty clear that Sun gave an implied open license to these things, so to come back now and insist otherwise is pretty questionable. Furthermore, there still are questions as to whether or not an API can actually be covered by copyright at all.
Ellison began a longer answer, but Judge William Alsup interrupted him and said it was a “yes or no” question. Finally Ellison said, “I’m not sure.”
“And anyone can use it without royalty?” Van Nest followed up.
“I’m not sure,” Ellison said again.
Then Van Nest showed a video of Ellison receiving the same question on a deposition video and answering “That’s correct” to both.
Separately, Oracle keeps talking about just how much work it is to create APIs, and even points to some Google statements about the difficulty of doing so. That's smoke and mirrors. Difficulty has no bearing on copyright law. It's kind of surprising that Oracle's lawyers would even bring it up, as "sweat of the brow" arguments won't get very far. Hell, even if it biases a jury, it would get rejected on appeal. It seems like Oracle's strategy here is just to confuse the jury and go for guilty by association because they're going to have trouble showing actual guilt.
As for the specific code snippets shown above, those a few lines out of 50,000 or so files. Under copyright there's a defense known as de minimis copying, if you're just found to have copied a very tiny portion of something. It seems like that might apply here as well.
Also, you may have heard stories about the results of this trial potentially being worth billions of dollars or something, but that was before most of the patents got thrown out. The patents left over aren't worth very much at all, and the end result means that if Oracle wins, it'll likely get less than $100 million. That's still a significant sum, but it's a lot less than what Oracle had hoped to get in this lawsuit.
In the end, as it seemed from the beginning, Oracle's case looks pretty weak (and getting weaker).
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 25th 2011 7:06pm
Oracle Deletes Jonathan Schwartz's Old Blog; Which Excitedly Celebrated Google's Use Of Java In Android
from the rewriting-history dept
I imagine that Oracle also wanted to erase other former Schwartz blog posts, like the one we spoke about years ago, in which he pointed out that suing over patents is a sign of desperation and that real companies innovate, rather than litigate.
Now, many of you who will be quick to point out that none of that matters. Oracle holds the patents now and so it gets to decide. And that's true -- though I do wonder if such promises not to litigate over patents and to celebrate such usages might be seen as a form of a license... But, the larger point I wanted to raise is that this shows the dangers even of defensive patents. Sun held a ton of patents, almost all of which were for defensive reasons (or to just show what a joke the patent system is). And yet... now that Oracle has them, it can and is using them to try to shake down other companies.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Oct 6th 2010 12:25am
from the ah,-history dept
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Aug 17th 2010 7:58am
from the our-patent-system-at-work dept
"OK, maybe you don't infringe these seven patents. But we have 10,000 U.S. patents. Do you really want us to go back to Armonk [IBM headquarters in New York] and find seven patents you do infringe? Or do you want to make this easy and just pay us $20 million?"I had been thinking of that story after seeing the news that Oracle was suing Google over patents it received in buying Sun, and it seems that the joke of an IBM lawsuit may be indirectly responsible for this equally laughable lawsuit. Slashdot points us to a blog post by early Sun engineer James Gosling, where he admits that the experience with the IBM lawsuit resulted in a game among Sun engineers to come up with the most ridiculous thing that could be patented:
In Sun's early history, we didn't think much of patents. While there's a kernel of good sense in the reasoning for patents, the system itself has gotten goofy. Sun didn't file many patents initially. But then we got sued by IBM for violating the "RISC patent" - a patent that essentially said "if you make something simpler, it'll go faster". Seemed like a blindingly obvious notion that shouldn't have been patentable, but we got sued, and lost. The penalty was huge. Nearly put us out of business. We survived, but to help protect us from future suits we went on a patenting binge. Even though we had a basic distaste for patents, the game is what it is, and patents are essential in modern corporations, if only as a defensive measure. There was even an unofficial competition to see who could get the goofiest patent through the system. My entry wasn't nearly the goofiest.While that patent that Gosling names isn't included in this particular lawsuit, but others have noticed that one of the patents (RE38104) is a Gosling patent.
Of course, it's easy to point out that the folks named on the patents are claiming themselves that the patents were part of a joke to see how bad the patent office is. But, you can take it to another level altogether, and have folks who actually know quite a bit about the technology go through the patents one by one and explain why each of them is a total joke.
This is yet another in an exceptionally long line of examples of what a complete mess our patent system has become. I'm curious if the patent system supporters out there can come up with some sort of way to defend the patent system in this particular situation.