Google vs. Oracle
Intellectual Property Right (IPR)
IPR which is short for Intellectual Property Right is a right given by the government to people with tension to create a physical product/service. An intellectual property is not an idea alone. For example, an idea for a book would not be classified as an intellectual property, however the words written in the book would be. Different types of Intellectual property protection (IPP) would be Patent, Copyright, Trademarks and designs. IPR gives the creator the ability to work on their own product without having to worry about others stealing from them. By protecting your product you stop others from copying your invention, design, name of your brand and written scripts you already produced.
What is Copyright?
An Intellectual Property Right which Google was accused of would be Copyright. In many cases Copyright is granted to the originator for a certain amount of years which gives them the creator the permission to exploit a musical, literary, or other artistic work, such as recording in the form of print, audio and video etc... This means that from the moment you create something and successfully copyright it, the product/service belongs to you and only you. Becoming the legal owner of the product gives you the exclusive right to display, perform, copy and distribute the product elsewhere.
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Once the product is captured in a fixed format such as being recorded or written down then it’s protected by copyright automatically without having to use the copyright symbol. However, it would be a good idea to use the copyright symbol as it would remind people that your product/service is protected by copyright. Ideas, facts and logos are not protected by the Copyright law. However, logos could be protected by the Trademark law.
In some cases using Copyright material in commentary, news reporting, research and education could result in fair use. The fair use of a Copyrighted material would be dependent on the user’s purpose. For example, if you intend to use Copyrighted material to derive financial or other business benefit, then it would not be considered as fair use. Fair use also considers the effect on the market or the potential market. If your use is likely to results in economic loss of the copyright holder then it is less likely to be considered as fair use which could result in lawsuits.
Google’s product for smartphones
Over the years Google has changed the business of electronics worldwide. Achieving many goals over the years such as being the most used search engine in the world. One of Google’s successes would be Android. Google had bought Android Inc. in August 2005 where their plans were to use Androids software in mobile devices. Discussions about licencing Java from Sun were also made. Google had two choices, they were either going to carry on with the Java to be the platform for Android and defend their decision or accept Microsoft’s platform for Android. Over the next couple of months Google and Sun were trying to negotiate to licence Java but fail to settle an agreement. 1 year later (February 2006) Google receives an offer from Sun which supposedly offers a 3 year Java licensing for $25 million. The price also considers Google’s Android Revenue which Google rejects later on.
On November 5, 2007 Google introduced Android, the first open platform for mobile devices. The Android is the furthermost used mobile Operating System, as of 2013, which had the highest selling OS overall. Smartphones with Android Operating System sell more than IOS, Mac OS X and Windows devices put together. In April 2013, a total of 71% of the mobile developers were developing and working for Android. This clearly shows us that Google was growing as an OS provider for major brands such as Samsung, HTC, and Motorola etc… The first Android OS device was released in October 2008, called the HTC dream.
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Intellectual Property Right issues which Android faced
The Android OS has successfully made it to the top of the board for being the most popular mobile Operating System. However, with success come failures. When Google introduced the Android Operating System back in 2007, Oracle (which specialises in developing computer hardware systems and enterprise software products) had a reason to believe that Google was using parts of Oracles Application Program Interface (API) Java scripts which was protected by Copyright.
When Android was first introduced, Google stated that Android will be running of a Linux kernel which included a machine called Dalvik. The Dalvik machine would be compatible with Java. This resulted in Copyright issues as the Java patents and copyright were inherited by Sun which Oracle acquires in January 2010. Because of this reason Oracle organises a meeting with Google’s lawyer to discuss the infringement against Oracles patents (API) in July2010.
Google was legitimately accused of infringing parts of Oracles Java patents and it’s copyright. The lawsuit was filed in August 12, 2010 against Google. Although Google denied such allegation, Java played a key role in Androids success to be the most used Operating System in smartphones.
Other IPR lawsuits were also filed against Android. Google faced many lawsuits by major companies such as Apple, Microsoft etc... As Android was increasing its value other companies were trying to overthrow Android from becoming the most popular mobile Operating System.
When Google was taken to court for infringement, Oracle sought a total damage of $6.1 billion for misusing Oracles Java Patents and copyright in Google’s Android OS. An enormous amount such as $6.1 billion which was requested by Oracle could have put Google and all of its associates at risk. As the Android Operating System is being used in most smartphones the damages would have affected major mobile phone companies such as Samsung and HTC etc…
Luckily, this valuation was turned down by a US Federal judge who requested Oracle to review and recalculate the estimate. The reason for this is because Oracles Java patents and copyright were said to be invalid.
In May 2011, the allegations which Oracle had on Google were dismissed as Google was not found guilty of infringing on Oracles java patents and copyright. The trial jury also stated that the Java APIs which Google used was not copyrightable. In this case, Google did not receive any penalties nor did Oracle. The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit later on ruled in Oracles favour by remanding issues for fair use regarding copyright to the district court.
Oracle’s Appeal to the Federal Circuit
After the court hearing, there were no claims found. However, Oracle believed that they were liable for damages for infringement to their Java API. So, they appealed to the Federal Circuit. The Federal Circuit ruled in Oracles favour by reversing the issue about API’s not being copyrightable.
In this case Google cross appealed to the Federal Circuit for continues copying right claims. The hearing for this took place on December 4, 2013. A verdict was released on May 9, 2014. The verdict clearly stated that Application Program Interface were copyrightable as for the structure, organisation and structure. As a result Oracles claims for API copyright were found liable. However, the verdict was not final as the Federal Circuit reconsidered the case of the fair use defence.
During the Court hearing Google took several actions to protect their Product from allegations such as copyright lawsuits. One of them would be the fact that Google requested the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to inspect Oracles patents. The results would be that only two patents were valid from the seven patents Oracle accused Google of infringing.
In regards to the lawsuits which were filed against Google by other companies such as Oracle. Google purchased Motorola Mobility for a total of $12.5 billion. In regards to protect Android, Google saw the need to purchase new patents from companies such as Motorola Mobility and IBM. The reason why Google took this root is because Motorola Mobility had more than 17,000 patents registered. Thousands of patents were also bought from IBM. By doing so, Android stood a better chance for Intellectual Property Right prosecutions.
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Reference and Further reading
- Google’s Android Operating System and legal issues http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)
- Oracles Lawsuit Against Google http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oracle_Corporation
- The timeline of the Java lawsuit against Google http://www.pcworld.com/article/253666/a_timeline_of_oracles_java_lawsuit_against_google.html
- An overview of Intellectual Property https://www.gov.uk/intellectual-property-an-overview/overview
- Oracle’s appeal to the Federal Circuit http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/05/09/oracle_vs_google_appeal/
- Google’s appeal to the Supreme Court http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/9/6953215/oracle-v-google-case-supreme-court-hearing