Google wins epic legal battle with Oracle – San Jose Mercury News

SAN FRANCISCO — Google scored a major legal victory against Oracle on Thursday when a federal court jury ruled that the search giant was within its rights to use Java programming code to build its Android operating system.

While the unanimous decision, reached after three days of deliberation and a two-week trial studded with testimony from tech luminaries, will be cheered by many in the developer community as a triumph for Silicon Valley innovation, Oracle immediately vowed to appeal, ensuring that the epic six-year battle is far from over.

The Redwood City-based cloud-computing behemoth claimed Google owed it as much as $9 billion in damages for stealing its software and making billions from it.

Oracle headquarters in Redwood City, top, Google headquarters in Mountain View, bottom.

Oracle headquarters in Redwood City, top, Google headquarters in Mountain View, bottom. (Archive photos)

But Google was able to convince the jury of eight women and two men that it had done nothing wrong when it used some of the Java code to create Android, even though the material was copyrighted. During the case before U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup, Google argued that Sun Microsystems, which created Java in the 1990s long before it was bought by Oracle, had no problem with Google using the code without a license.

Dorian Daley, Oracle’s general counsel, said immediately after the verdict that the company will continue its fight for Java. “We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market,” he said. “Oracle brought this lawsuit to put a stop to Google’s illegal behavior. We believe there are numerous grounds for appeal.”


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Google lawyer Bob Van Nest said he was “grateful for the jury’s verdict.” In a statement, Google said the result was “a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and free programming languages to build innovative consumer products.”

In after-hours trading, shares in Oracle were down 0.2 percent and Alphabet, Google’s parent company, were up about 0.2 percent.

Thursday’s verdict marked the end of a second go-round in the case. In 2012, Alsup ruled that the software could not be copyrighted. But on appeal, a federal court reversed his ruling, finding that Oracle was entitled to copyright protection. When the U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case up, the dispute returned to Alsup’s court for jurors to decide if Google’s actions were protected by fair use, which would allow it to freely harness small portions of copyrighted material.

Mitch Stoltz, senior staff attorney for the San Francisco-based digital-rights group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, agreed that the outcome was a win for developers. But he said the verdict does not invalidate the appellate ruling that the Java application program interfaces at the heart of the case can be copyrighted. He said that leaves open “the potential for mischief” in the future.

Tyler Ochoa, a law professor at Santa Clara University, said an Oracle victory could have had profound implications for the way Silicon Valley innovates and operates. It also could have spawned a barrage of new legal skirmishes with “software copyright being used as a tool by lawyers for all sorts of companies going after their competitors.”

During the trial, jurors listened intently to hours of often dry testimony about sometimes esoteric computer language. At one point during deliberations, the panel was stymied by a jury-room computer overwhelmed by the millions of lines of code that Oracle lawyers had included as evidence for them to consider.

Along the way, jurors heard from Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, Google co-founder Larry Page and, via video link, Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison.

Google argued that the company’s use of the material was “transformative” because it was used to create something entirely new, a critical point in persuading jurors that Google’s actions were protected under the legal concept of fair use.

“We believed it was permissible to use the language without a license,” Google’s Schmidt testified. Schmidt, who once worked for Sun, said the two companies had a clear understanding that it was fine for the search giant to copy a series of so-called “labels” in the Java language, which developers then use to make their apps run.

But Oracle’s lead attorney, Peter Bicks, insisted that what Google had done was just plain wrong. “This is a very important case with a lot at stake and it involves fundamental principles of fairness,” he told jurors in his opening statement. “We’ll show how Google acted outside of acceptable business conduct.”

At one point, Bicks told the jurors “three billion phones have been activated with Oracle property inside.” He said Google made a “deliberate business decision not to take a license and to copy and use Oracle’s valuable software illegally. Why? Huge profits.”

Telling the jury in his opening statement, and repeating it again in his closing, Bicks said Google “broke a basic rule — you don’t take somebody’s property without permission and use it for your own benefit. That’s what this case is about.”

UC Berkeley law professor Pam Samuelson said the litigation was a “very unusual” fair use case, which presented a challenge for Google’s attorneys. She cited several reasons why she thought the jury agreed with the fair use defense, including the fact that “Google was the one who made an innovative and highly successful product from Java.”

Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689 or follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.

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Breath but not blood? Justices mull Minnesota's law on sobriety tests for drivers – Rick Kupchella's BringMeTheNews

Minnesota stood in the nation’s legal spotlight Wednesday, as the U.S. Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the law making it a crime for drunk driving suspects to refuse to submit to breath or blood tests.

Minnesota’s law maintains that a driver’s consent to be tested for intoxication is implied when that person gets behind the wheel.

Critics say laws allowing officers to test a suspect’s breath, blood, or urine without a warrant violate the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects against unreasonable search or seizure.

Arguments before the Supreme Court

Comments and questions from the Supreme Court justices while cases are being argued often provide clues as to how the court is leaning.

Reports from Washington suggest that on Wednesday some justices sounded skeptical about the constitutionality of Minnesota’s law (and the 12 others like it around the country).

Justice Anthony Kennedy told lawyers defending the law: “You’re asking for us to make it a crime to exercise what many people think of as a constitutional right,” USA Today reports.

Some justices wondered why the states don’t make getting a warrant standard procedure before administering the tests, the Associated Press says.

The U.S. Supreme Court is taking on a case that involves the constitutionality of drivers taking a breath test. | https://t.co/O9jc9iZrGW

— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) April 21, 2016

But there were also signs that a middle ground might be forming, under which a blood or urine test would require a warrant but a less invasive breath test would not.

In suggesting that breath tests are not invasive, Justice Stephen Breyer commented that people have to exhale anyway, the Star Tribune reports.

A lawyer whose client is challenging the law called breath tests  “a significant intrusion on personal liberty” but was interrupted by Justice Elena Kagan, who said “this is about as uninvasive as a test can be!” the newspaper says.

The Minnesota case

Minnesota’s law is being challenged by an Eagan man, William Bernard, Jr., who was arrested in South St. Paul in 2012 after refusing to submit to sobriety testing.

A Minnesota district court threw out the two felony charges against Bernard but they were reinstated by an appeals court and upheld by the state Supreme Court.

Arguments were also presented Wednesday in a similar challenge to North Dakota’s law. Lawyers for the Obama administration are supporting the state laws and a deputy Solicitor General was part of Wednesday’s arguments.

The Star Tribune reports the cases were discussed in court for more than an hour and a decision is expected within two months.

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California teacher tenure challenge rejected – San Jose Mercury News

Handing California’s teacher unions a reprieve in a legal battle with national implications, a state appeals court on Thursday shot down a lawsuit that claims job protections for public teachers go so far they undermine the educations of many of the state’s schoolchildren in poor and minority districts.

Bolstering California laws that provide for strong teacher tenure benefits, a Los Angeles-based appeals court overturned a 2014 ruling that found the current system unconstitutional because it harmed students, particularly in minority and low-income school districts. The case, backed by a Silicon Valley entrepeneur, was pressed by nine students, including from Bay Area districts in San Jose, Oakland and San Carlos.

June 2014 file photograph: Dave Welch, Students Matter founder, speaks at a press conference about the decision in the Vergara case. With him are plaintiff

June 2014 file photograph: Dave Welch, Students Matter founder, speaks at a press conference about the decision in the Vergara case. With him are plaintiff Julia Macias, 13, and her family, and Russlyn Ali, Students Matter board member. (Walt Mancini/ Pasadena Star-News)

The ruling sided with state education officials and teacher unions, giving them a reprieve in a case that could have forced a major overhaul of teacher tenure in public schools.

Students Matter, the non-profit group behind the students’ lawsuit, immediately vowed to appeal to the California Supreme Court.

“The decision mistakenly blames local school districts for the egregious constitutional violations students are suffering each and every day,” said Theodore Boutrous Jr., attorney for the students. “The mountain of evidence we put on at trial proved … the irrational, arbitrary, and abominable laws at issue in this case shackle school districts and impose severe and irreparable harm on students.”


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The appeals court suggested that any fallout from failures to oust bad teachers should be blamed on local school administrators, not the California laws that provide the framework for the system as a whole.

“Plaintiffs failed to establish that the challenged statutes violate equal protection, primarily because they did not show that the statutes inevitably cause a certain group of students to receive an education inferior to the education received by other students,” a unanimous 2nd District Court of Appeals panel wrote.

A Los Angeles judge ruled two years ago that California laws governing teacher tenure, firing and layoffs violate students’ constitutional right to education equality — at the time a stunning victory for the Silicon Valley nonprofit that brought the lawsuit.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Rolf M. Treu found that the evidence of how poor teachers affect students “shocks the conscience” and that “there is also no dispute that there are a significant number of grossly ineffective teachers currently active in California classrooms.” He noted that the current laws protect bad teachers, harm students and disproportionately affect poor and minority pupils.

Treu ordered the state to stop enforcing tenure, dismissal and layoff laws but stayed his orders pending any appeals. But at the time, experts said the ruling would send a clear signal to legislators to begin rewriting those laws to make it easier to fire poorly performing teachers, to delay or change tenure rules and to rework layoff criteria so that newly hired teachers aren’t always the first to lose their jobs.

The appeals court, however, found key flaws in the challenge to California’s tenure laws, in large part because there was insufficient proof the statutes themselves harm one group of students more than another. While the justices observed that there was ample evidence of “drawbacks” in the tenure system and “deplorable staffing decisions made by some local administrators,” the students’ lawyers offered no proof the laws were to blame for any adverse impact on poor and minority students.

The decision left open the door to challenging individual districts for how their tenure practices may cause educational harm to those students, but upheld the legality of California’s overall system.

The case centered on several arguments that certain teacher tenure provisions wind up harming students. These include: Granting tenure, essentially permanent employment, to teachers after about 18 months on the job, making California one of only fives states granting tenure after two years or less.

The lawsuit also focused on dismissal laws that effectively require from two to 10 years to get rid of a teacher and force districts to spend $50,000 to $450,000 or more to fire grossly ineffective teachers amount to “uber due process” that results in school districts allowing such teachers to continue in the classroom. Treu noted that 1 percent to 3 percent of California’s 275,000 active teachers are considered grossly ineffective, or up to 8,250 teachers.

“Every student deserves a great public education, yet California’s education laws make this impossible,” said Dave Welch, the founder of Students Matter. “Today, the courts failed to safeguard students’ constitutional rights. I hope and expect that the California Supreme Court will step in and protect the rights of millions of students across California.”

Howard Mintz covers legal affairs. Contact him at 408-286-0236 or follow him at Twitter.com/hmintz

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Michelle Fields slams Van Susteren as 'Trump shill' – Politico

michelle_fields_1160_2_screen_grab.jpg

“I think I’ll pass on getting legal advice from a Trump shill,” Michelle Fields tweeted. | POLITICO screen grab

Former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields accused Greta Van Susteren of being a “shill” for Donald Trump’s campaign late Wednesday evening, after the Fox News anchor urged Fields not to bring a civil defamation lawsuit against either Trump or campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who last month was charged with misdemeanor battery for a run-in following a campaign event in Florida last month.

Earlier Wednesday, POLITICO reported that a Florida prosecutor has decided not to prosecute Lewandowski and will announce the decision later Thursday afternoon.

Story Continued Below

By Wednesday evening, TheBlaze reported that Fields said she was looking to sue both the candidate and his campaign manager for defaming her character throughout the episode. Lewandowski tweeted that Fields was “delusional” with her account of events, while Trump himself questioned whether the bruises on Fields’ arm came from the alleged grabbing incident at his golf club.

“Anyone encouraging Michelle Fields to bring a civil law suit is not doing her a favor,” Van Susteren wrote in a post on her website. “She does not want to take the stand in a civil case, subject to rigorous cross examination, that is likely to be on television to discuss a case that the DA won’t prosecute because he does not believe the evidence shows assault. Yes, the burden of proof is less in a civil case, but she is just not going to win and it will be expensive and a heartache.”

Van Susteren added, “Anyone encouraging this young woman to bring a lawsuit is irresponsible to her.”

Fields fired back on Twitter, writing, “I think I’ll pass on getting legal advice from a Trump shill. Thanks tho.”

Responding to this article on Twitter, Van Susteren, a former lawyer, tweeted Thursday morning, “this is silly-I relied on years of experience in court system,she relies on name calling :)”

Lewandowski has stayed on the Trump campaign despite the incident, though his role has begun to diminish as the campaign grows and the calendar gets closer to the July convention. Convention veteran Paul Manafort recently joined the Trump campaign, and on Wednesday, the campaign announced that it had hired former Scott Walker campaign manager Rick Wiley as political director.

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Michelle Fields slams Van Susteren as 'Trump shill' – Politico

michelle_fields_1160_2_screen_grab.jpg

“I think I’ll pass on getting legal advice from a Trump shill,” Michelle Fields tweeted. | POLITICO screen grab

Former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields accused Greta Van Susteren of being a “shill” for Donald Trump’s campaign late Wednesday evening, after the Fox News anchor urged Fields not to bring a civil defamation lawsuit against either Trump or campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, who last month was charged with misdemeanor battery for a run-in following a campaign event in Florida last month.

Earlier Wednesday, POLITICO reported that a Florida prosecutor has decided not to prosecute Lewandowski and will announce the decision later Thursday afternoon.

Story Continued Below

By Wednesday evening, TheBlaze reported that Fields said she was looking to sue both the candidate and his campaign manager for defaming her character throughout the episode. Lewandowski tweeted that Fields was “delusional” with her account of events, while Trump himself questioned whether the bruises on Fields’ arm came from the alleged grabbing incident at his golf club.

“Anyone encouraging Michelle Fields to bring a civil law suit is not doing her a favor,” Van Susteren wrote in a post on her website. “She does not want to take the stand in a civil case, subject to rigorous cross examination, that is likely to be on television to discuss a case that the DA won’t prosecute because he does not believe the evidence shows assault. Yes, the burden of proof is less in a civil case, but she is just not going to win and it will be expensive and a heartache.”

Van Susteren added, “Anyone encouraging this young woman to bring a lawsuit is irresponsible to her.”

Fields fired back on Twitter, writing, “I think I’ll pass on getting legal advice from a Trump shill. Thanks tho.”

Responding to this article on Twitter, Van Susteren, a former lawyer, tweeted Thursday morning, “this is silly-I relied on years of experience in court system,she relies on name calling :)”

Lewandowski has stayed on the Trump campaign despite the incident, though his role has begun to diminish as the campaign grows and the calendar gets closer to the July convention. Convention veteran Paul Manafort recently joined the Trump campaign, and on Wednesday, the campaign announced that it had hired former Scott Walker campaign manager Rick Wiley as political director.

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