Google originally argued that APIs like those in Java aren't eligible for copyright protection. The federal district court judge in the case agreed, but an appeals court overturned his ruling. Google asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider the matter, but it declined.
Google's defense turned next to the legal doctrine of fair use, which allows copying of creative works under limited circumstances, most commonly for things like criticism, satire, and educational use.
The jury had to consider four factors in deciding whether Google's use was fair. They included whether its use of Java was "transformative," meaning it created something new and different from the original copyright work, which in this case was Java Standard Edition.
The jurors also had to consider the extent to which Android harmed Java in the marketplace. Google's lawyers argued that Sun never succeeded in the smartphone market because it never built a decent smartphone OS -- not because of Android.
It's a civil case, which means Google had to prove by a "preponderance of the evidence" that its use of Java was fair. That's a lower burden than in a criminal trial, when Google would have had to prove its case "beyond reasonable doubt."
Sign up for CIO Asia eNewsletters.