Google asks US Supreme Court to decide Android copyright case

The US Supreme Court might weigh in on the extent to which APIs can be protected by copyright

Google has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a copyright infringement case that some developers think could have a big impact on their ability to innovate in software.

The case was brought by Oracle four years ago and accuses Google of infringing patents and copyrights related to Java in its Android mobile OS.

Google emerged largely victorious from a lower court trial but an appeals court overturned that ruling in May. Google now wants the highest court in the U.S. to hear its case.

Android has become the most widely used mobile operating system, but Oracle says Google copied basic elements of Java to develop the OS. It filed its lawsuit against Google four years ago and was seeking US$1 billion in damages for its copyright claims.

Specifically, Oracle says Google copied the structure and organization of the Java APIs (application programming interfaces), in part so that developers already familiar with Java would find it easier to write programs for Android.

Google argued that the APIs shouldn't be protected by copyright because they're required to write compatible programs. The lower court agreed, but the appeals court sided with Oracle and said APIs are creative works that deserve protection like any other.

The search and advertising giant filed its request for the Supreme Court to hear the case earlier this week. The court doesn't accept all cases and it might well decline its request.

Google's filing wasn't immediately available on the Supreme Court's website. Oracle has until Nov. 7 to file its response.

"Early computer companies could have blocked vast amounts of technological development by claiming 95-year copyright monopolies over the basic building blocks of computer design and programming," Google said in its filing, according to a Reuters report.

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

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Tags application developmentLanguages and standardssmartphonesCivil lawsuitsAndroidlegalsoftwareOracleconsumer electronicsGoogleintellectual propertycopyright

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