Oracle lands legal sucker punch on Google’s Android
US appeals court says Java APIs can be copyrighted
A US federal appeals court on Friday decided that Oracle Corp can copyright part of the Java programming language, which was used by Google Inc to build its Android OS.
The outcome of the case, which has previously drawn testimony from Oracle's chief executive, Larry Ellison, and Google CEO Larry Page, could serve as a landmark decision in determining how US tech companies claim intellectual property.
In 2010 Oracle filed a complaint against Google, which developed Android from an acquired property. The filing said Google had misappropriated parts of Java for the Android platform and sought $1bn in copyright payments.
Specifically, the legal action covers application programming interfaces (APIs), which are used to expose software to programmatic instructions from a third-party source. Oracle claims Google infringed copyright on 37 Java APIs.
Friday's ruling in a Washington court reverses a San Francisco federal ruling, which held that Oracle had no copyright claim.
"We conclude that a set of commands to instruct a computer to carry out desired operations may contain expression that is eligible for copyright protection," Federal Circuit Judge Kathleen O'Malley wrote.
If the decision stands, lawyers may have to get more involved in software development. Google said it set a "damaging precedent for computer science and software development" and was considering its options. Oracle general counsel Dorian Daley called the decision a "win" for an industry "that relies on copyright protection to fuel innovation".