Google claims victory in the patent round of legal wrangling with Oracle over the Java APIs. But the battle isn’t over yet and questions remain about the future of the Android platform.
For now, Android development can continue as usual and changes to the existing Android codebase were not requested. However, Oracle plans to appeal a copyright decision in the case and seek monetary compensation.
The jury’s verdict Wednesday in the patent phase of the trial eliminated the need for Google to pay patent infringement fees. This is good news for Android developers and handset makers alike.
Secondly, developers will not be required to update apps or patch legacy versions in order to comply. The Android ecosystem is safe. In other words, the end of programming at the hands of Oracle is not imminent, thankfully.
The next phase of the hearings will cover Google’s fair use claim and the determination of API copyright. This is arguably a more important issue to developers than even patent infringement.
A ruling in favor of Oracle would set new legal precedence. This could end programming as we know it by requiring all forms of licensing for use and accompanying fees. Developers could suddenly find themselves in need of legal representation over existing code in multiple languages. This is where real change in computer programming begins. Pages of paperwork and court fees could quickly drain development budgets, forcing projects to shut down before they’re completed.
Andrew Binstock, executive editor with Dr. Dobb’s Journal, noted:
Essentially, every language implementation not issued forth by the copyright holder will be suspect until the copyright owners announce a permanent statement dispensing with any threats to enforce the copyrights.
We’ll find out more after next week’s proceedings, which are set to resume Tuesday. I hope to see a ruling in Google’s favor. The future of programming is supposed to be one of innovation, not total annihilation by way of usage fees. A ruling that APIs are copyrighted property could create a Dystopian future for computer science.