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Oracle v. Google -- Judge rules APIs not copyrightable

Oracle v. Google -- Judge rules APIs not copyrightable

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Published by: michelle_meyers on May 31, 2012
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07/10/2013

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12345678910111213141516171819202122232425262728IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURTFOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIAORACLE AMERICA, INC.,Plaintiff,v.GOOGLE INC.,Defendant.No. C 10-03561 WHA
ORDER RE COPYRIGHTABILITYOF CERTAIN REPLICATEDELEMENTS OF THEJAVA APPLICATIONPROGRAMMING INTERFACEINTRODUCTION
This action was the first of the so-called “smartphone war” cases tried to a jury.This order includes the findings of fact and conclusions of law on a central question triedsimultaneously to the judge, namely the extent to which, if at all, certain replicated elementsof the structure, sequence and organization of the Java application programming interface areprotected by copyright.
PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 2007, Google Inc., announced its Android software platform for mobile devices.In 2010, Oracle Corporation acquired Sun Microsystems, Inc., and thus acquired Sun’s interestin the popular programming language known as Java, a language used in Android. Sun wasrenamed Oracle America, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Oracle America (hereinafter simply “Oracle”)sued defendant Google and accused its Android platform as infringing Oracle’s Java-relatedcopyrights and patents.
Case3:10-cv-03561-WHA Document1202 Filed05/31/12 Page1 of 41
 
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123456789101112131415161718192021222324252627282Both Java and Android are complex platforms. Both include “virtual machines,”development and testing kits, and application programming interfaces, also known as APIs.Oracle’s copyright claim involves 37 packages in the Java API. Copyrightability of the elementsreplicated is the only issue addressed by this order.Due to complexity, the Court decided that the jury (and the judge) would best understandthe issues if the trial was conducted in phases. The first phase covered copyrightabilityand copyright infringement as well as equitable defenses. The second phase covered patentinfringement. The third phase would have dealt with damages but was obviated by stipulationand verdicts.For the first phase, it was agreed that the judge would decide issues of copyrightabilityand Google’s equitable defenses and that the jury would decide infringement, fair use, andwhether any copying was de minimis. Significantly, all agreed that Google had not literallycopied the software but had instead come up with its own implementations of the 37 APIpackages. Oracle’s central claim, rather, was that Google had replicated the structure, sequenceand organization of the overall code for the 37 API packages.For their task of determining infringement and fair use, the jury was told it should takefor granted that the structure, sequence and organization of the 37 API packages as a whole
was
copyrightable. This, however, was not a final definitive legal ruling. One reason for thisinstruction was so that if the judge ultimately ruled, after hearing the phase one evidence, thatthe structure, sequence and organization in question was not protectable but was later reversedin this regard, the court of appeals might simply reinstate the jury verdict. In this way, the courtof appeals would have a wider range of alternatives without having to worry about an expensiveretrial. Counsel were so informed but not the jury.Each side was given seventeen hours of “air time” for phase one evidence (not countingopenings, closings or motion practice). In phase one, as stated, the parties presented evidenceon copyrightability, infringement, fair use, and the equitable defenses. As to the compilablecode for the 37 Java API packages, the jury found that Google infringed but deadlocked on thefollow-on question of whether the use was protected by fair use. As to the documentation for
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1
After the jury verdict, the Court granted Oracle’s Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law of infringement of eight decompiled computer files, which were literally copied. Google admitted to copying eightcomputer files by decompiling the bytecode from eight Java files into source code and then copying the sourcecode. These files were not proven to have ever been part of Android.
3the 37 Java API packages, the jury found no infringement. As to certain small snippets of code,the jury found only one was infringing, namely, the nine lines of code called “rangeCheck.”In phase two, the jury found no patent infringement across the board. (Those patents, it shouldbe noted, had nothing to do with the subject addressed by this order.) The entire jury portion of the trial lasted six weeks.
1
 This order addresses and resolves the core premise of the main copyright claims, namely,whether the elements replicated by Google from the Java system were protectable by copyrightin the first place. No law is directly on point. This order relies on general principles of copyright law announced by Congress, the Supreme Court and the Ninth Circuit.* * *Counsel on both sides have supplied excellent briefing and the Court wishes to recognizetheir extraordinary effort and to thank counsel, including those behind the scenes burningmidnight oil in law libraries, for their assistance.
SUMMARY OF RULING
So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is freeunder the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same functionor specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration ormethod header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they
must be identical
to declare amethod 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 andno one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names couldhave been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyrightprotection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.It is true that the very same functionality could have been offered in Androidwithout duplicating the exact command structure used in Java. This could have been done
Case3:10-cv-03561-WHA Document1202 Filed05/31/12 Page3 of 41

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