Oracle wins, Google loses in copyright ruling on Java APIs

An appeals court sided with Oracle and ordered the companies back to court

Google was dealt a blow Friday in the multibillion dollar lawsuit alleging its Android operating system infringes on intellectual property owned by Oracle.

A federal appeals court granted Oracle's appeal in the case, ruling that programming interfaces in Oracle's Java technology can be protected under U.S. copyright law.

Oracle says Google relied on the interfaces to create its popular Android mobile operating system, so the appeals court ruling means Oracle can now continue to pursue its legal case against Google.

"We are extremely pleased that the Federal Circuit denied Google's attempt to drastically limit copyright protection for computer code," Oracle said in a statement.

The federal appeals court referred the case back to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, where the two sides will have to return to do battle.

Oracle sued Google four years ago, saying its Android operating system infringes on patents and copyrights related to Oracle's Java technology.

Specifically, Oracle says Google copied the "structure, sequence and organization" of some key Java APIs (application programming interfaces) in developing Android.

The jury agreed with Oracle that Google used its APIs in Android, but they were deadlocked on whether it was protected by "fair use" law, which allows copying in some limited circumstances.

The appeals court has now referred the case back to the District Court in San Francisco, where a different jury will have to decide whether Google's use of the APIs was protected.

In a complex case, Google had argued that the APIs should not be copyrightable at all under U.S. law. It argued that they're needed by developers to write interoperable software programs.

A District Court judge agreed with Google, and Oracle appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. It's that court that ruled in Oracle's favor on Friday.

The case could have wider implications for the software industry. Some developers argued that making the APIs subject to copyright law would limit their ability to build compatible programs and would stifle innovation. Many big software vendors disagreed and said APIs are creative works that are worthy of protection.

The appeals court came down on the side of the vendors.

"The Federal Circuit's opinion is a win for Oracle and the entire software industry that relies on copyright protection to fuel innovation and ensure that developers are rewarded for their breakthroughs," Oracle said in its statement.

"We are confident that the district court will appropriately apply the fair use doctrine on remand, which is not intended to protect naked commercial exploitation of copyrighted material," Oracle said.

Google couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags Googleintellectual propertycopyrightlegalsoftwareOracle

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

James Niccolai

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Kathy Cassidy

STYLISTIC Q702

First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni

STYLISTIC Q572

For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?