Why Google winning ‘fair use’ lawsuit against Oracle is good bad and ugly


The long drawn courtroom drama between Oracle and Google finally saw a slice of victory for the latter. A jury in a U.S district court unanimously upheld claims by Google that its use of Oracle’s Java development platform to create Android was protected under the fair use provision of copyright law, bringing trial to a close without Oracle winning any of the $9 billion in damages it requested.

This battle of the tech titans was closely watched by the industry for the gravity of the repercussions this case holds. The case brought to light the ambiguities and the impact that the words ‘infringement of intellectual property’ and ‘fair use’ have. Tech2 spoke to Sanchit Vir Gogia, Chief Analyst and CEO at Greyhound Research, about the ramifications that the case brings out for the innovation that developers bring in, the concept of open source and the software industry as a whole. “I see the outcome of the lawsuit as good, bad and ugly,” says Gogia.

Explaining this theory further, Gogia re-iterates the fact that open source is a huge part of the developer community. “The verdict reinforces the strength in open source as a concept,” he says. Talking about the ‘bad’ part, Gogia shares how this case highlighted the lack of clarity around the legal framework that protects copyrights and intellectual property. He points out that the case was high profile because of the sheer size and clout of the companies involved. “Oracle has the money to fight a case, or even multiple cases. What if this was a smaller company whose intellectual property a bigger company had used,” he questions. “Intellectual property and its fair use are still huge question marks that need to be answered by a legal framework. Otherwise the smaller players, startup communities will suffer,” adds Gogia. While he maintains that he considers the verdict a big win for developers, he says it is also a loss for the community just owing to the nebulous legal scenario.

Coming to the ugly, which he sees happening over a longer period of time, Gogia says that the outcome of the case will lead to companies becoming very conservative when it comes to using or sharing proprietary software, thus cutting down on innovation in the industry.

Gogia also says that this might not be the end of Oracle vs. Google. He added, “They (Oracle) will not take this lying down. We are looking at the very strong possibility of them filing another lawsuit in another court.”

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