The Billion Dollar Code ending explained – who won the infringement case?

October 7, 2021
Jonathon Wilson 7
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The Billion Dollar Code ending explained - who won the infringement case?

This article contains major spoilers for the ending of The Billion Dollar Code on Netflix. 

The Billion Dollar Code is, at the core of things, a simple, classic story about David vs Goliath, about the little man taking on the system. Telling the ostensibly true story of TerraVision, a technology remarkably similar to Google Earth but developed over a decade prior by Carsten Schlüter (Leonard Schleicher) and Juri Müller (Marius Ahrendt) as an experimental art installation in post-reunification Berlin, the four-part limited series is an engaging mixture of truth and craft. But it works on the strength of one big, essential question: Can two dorks from Germany topple one of the biggest technology corporations in the world?

Told across two timelines, the four episodes chronicle — using a present-day practice deposition as a framing device — how Carsten and Juri met in a techno club in 1993, secured funding from Deutsche Telekom to develop a prototype, and managed to get a working version of that prototype — with help from various hackers and artists from the Chaos Computer Club — to an international communications fair in Kyoto, Japan, in 1994. The technology, dubbed TerraVision, is a resounding success, and soon takes them to Silicon Valley, where they meet Brian Anderson (Lukas Loughran), whose acquiring of the source code proves to be the starting point of Google Earth, which emerges in 2005, 11 years later, seemingly working in exactly the same way.

In 2014, Carsten and Juri’s Berlin-based company ART+COM filed against Google for patent infringement, and it’s this court case that comprises the finale of The Billion Dollar Code. For those who don’t know the outcome of the lawsuit, the show does an admirable job of making it seem like justice will be on the side of the “heroes”, who are able to overcome a decade-and-a-half of not being on speaking terms, questionable histories with possible terrorist organizations, and crippling personal anxiety to give a truthful, compelling account of themselves before a jury of their peers.

And they lose anyway.

The Billion Dollar Code ending explained

The true injustice of The Billion Dollar Code is that it seems like their case is watertight. An expert witness who was granted privileged access to Google Earth’s source code — viewed on a lone terminal in a soundproofed little cell, like something out of Mission: Impossible — testified that the code was identical and that Google Earth infringed on the patent. Both Carsten and Juri gave strong accounts of themselves and their history on the stand. Juri’s association with the Chaos Computer Club was never brought up and could have been disproved if it was. It all comes down, in the end, to Brian Anderson, who takes the stand knowing he has betrayed a friend and looks for a moment like he might allow his guilt over that fact to compel him to be truthful. The show even indulges in an alternate reality in which he does, and ART+COM set a precedent for small businesses everywhere, that they can stand up against The Man and live to tell the tale. But the reality is that he lies. He lies about telling Juri back in the day that Google Earth couldn’t exist without TerraVision. And he plays to the jury’s sympathies by explaining how he nobly developed Google Earth to help repair a fractured world.

It’s a shame, really. And while the outcome was always inevitable, you’ll find yourself rooting for Carsten and Juri all throughout The Billion Dollar Code, and you’ll be crushed when things don’t go their way. Perhaps, though, this very show will at least shine a light on their story, their genius, and what the long-lasting implications of both have been for the society we live in today. That only seems fair to me.

You can stream The Billion Dollar Club exclusively on Netflix. Did you have any thoughts about The Billion Dollar Code’s ending? Let us know in the comments.

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7 thoughts on “The Billion Dollar Code ending explained – who won the infringement case?

  • October 12, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    It sickens me to learn how corrupted and unjust our world has become. Ethics, truth and moral conduct don’t seem to exist in our times.

  • October 12, 2021 at 4:31 pm

    Well done on this mini series.!! I really thought that they would win.. But same old story ,, the powerful win..
    Brian Anderson, betrayed a friend and lies about telling Juri back in the day that Google Earth couldn’t exist without TerraVision.
    Sickening how he explains Juri’s dream .. He is not a nice guy..
    What a rotter not to acknowledge their creation… Oh Well life goes on.. hopefully Brian gets his just deserts ..

  • October 12, 2021 at 6:57 pm

    Just proof that the world is corrupt. However what does around comes around and I hope Brian gets what he deserves. I was so interesting to see how Juri worked and realized his dream. Fantastic mini series

  • October 17, 2021 at 8:58 pm

    Anyone know Brian Anderson’s email address? I would like to tell him how much of a liar and a loser he is…

    Google IS Evil

    I know, sent from my Gmail address…

  • October 21, 2021 at 3:55 pm

    A song, from the famous film shot in berlin says it all:

    “Money makes the world go around, the world go around, it makes the world go round!”

  • October 28, 2021 at 11:35 am

    use the Brave Browser as a much better alternative to Google Chrome (it takes over all bookmarks and add-ons etc. without any issues) and use Ecosia as your search engine. Hit Google were it hurts, by not using them

  • June 25, 2023 at 12:25 am

    I thought TerraServer was first with a working world map using the worlds first terabyte sized server. This was done by MS back in the late 90’s so before TerraVision would have completed their work and far too close to their “launch” demo in 1994 for someone else to copy their work.

    I mean GEarth didn’t come out until 2001 if you want to see a real world timeline to develop the software and they supposedly had that douche Brian to thank for that.

    Just saying that’s it’s more than possible that several people think of the very same idea at the same time. You think the Wright brothers were the only ones working on an airplane?

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