Federal judge rules for Google in copyright infringement case

Federal judge rules for Google in copyright infringement case

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[JURIST] A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] on Thursday in favor of Google [corporate website] in the case of Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc. [case materials]. Judge William Alsup held that Google did not infringe patents and copyrights held by Oracle [corporate website] when it used Oracle’s 37 Java application programming interface (API) packages for its Android operating system. The court engaged in a lengthy discussion of Java’s structure, copyright laws and their development in light of the computer age. Alsup stated:

So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality – even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.

Thursday’s ruling expressly stated that APIs are not copyrightable because they are so basic and fundamental for computer codes that allowing Oracle to create a monopoly in this area would hinder others from creating their own codes performing the same commands.

The ruling came a week after a federal jury found [JURIST report] that Google’s use of the APIs was not an infringement of Oracle’s patents. Earlier in May, the jury found itself deadlocked [JURIST report] on the issue of whether Google’s use could be considered “fair use,” making it difficult for Oracle to win a large damage award. Oracle had claimed damages in the amount of $1 billion after the case went to trial [JURIST report] in April following a break-down of settlement negotiations.