Tech giants Google Inc. and Oracle Corp. began their hearing before a San Francisco federal court jury Monday morning over whether Google infringed upon the intellectual property owned by Oracle when Google used Java programming language in its popular Android operating system. Oracle is seeking $1 billion from Google in damages.
Not only is the financial stake high, but also the potential effect it could have on the smartphone market. In addition to the $1 billion, Oracle wants an injunction to block Google from distributing Android unless Google obtains a license.
Oracle, the largest database software maker, bought Sun Microsystems Inc., the developer or Java, in 2010. Oracle is arguing that Google violated its intellectual property when Google used Java's application programming interfaces (APIs) to develop the Android system. Java allows programs to talk to each other across operating systems and computing platforms.
"If Oracle wins the case and APIs are held to be copyrighted, then in theory, virtually every application – on Android, Mac Os, Windows, iPhone or any other platform – has to be at least re-released under new license terms," said Dan Crow, chief technology officer at Songkick and a former Google tech team leader, to BBC.
"This could result in many applications being withdrawn until their legality is resolved."
But Google argues that computer programming language is not copyrightable.
"Oracle accuses Google of infringement for doing what the Oracle API specifications describe. That is a classic attempt to improperly assert copyright over an idea rather than expression," said Google attorney Robert Van Nest in a court filing.
Silicon Valley's tech heavyweights are scheduled to appear before the court during the trial, including: Oracles CEO and co-founder Larry Ellison, Google CEO and co-founder Larry Page, Google chairman Eric Schmidt, among others.
Malcolm Barclay, who develops travel apps for iPhones, told BBC, "It would not be practical to go under the hood of each API to see if someone was going to sue you over using it. It would be equivalent of buying a music CD and suddenly finding someone wanted to charge you for listening to track 10."
U.S. District Judge William Alsup will oversee the trial, and has described it as "the World Series of IP cases," according to San Jose Mercury News.
The trial is expected to last two months.