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

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

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 x360

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 910

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.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?