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Appeals court: Java APIs copyrightable, Google vs. Oracle overturned

updated 11:43 am EDT, Fri May 9, 2014

Next step for Android case either Supreme Court or retrial

The US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, DC has overturned the Google vs Oracle court case, finding that Java APIs are subject to copyright protection. Reuters' Dan Levine was the first to break the news with a tweet on the ruling. The trial is now likely to head back to the Northern District of California for a second attempt, or see hearings before the US Supreme Court upon further appeal.

As early as December, it seemed like the original ruling by Judge William Alsup was in danger of being overturned. Reuters' Dan Levine and The Recorder's Scott K. Graham, both in attendance at the hearing, published Twitter posts suggesting that the appeals court was likely to reverse Google's earlier win.

US District Judge William Alsup sided with Google in the initial lawsuit, ruling that the open-source Java APIs copied by the company's Android operating system were not protected by copyright. Appeals Court Judge Kathleen O'Malley reportedly told Google's attorneys to stop citing fair-use cases, however, and focus on copyrightability cases in their defense arguments.

Oracle had sought billions of dollars in damages for the alleged infringement, before losing the initial court battles. Google countered with an offer for a small fraction of Android license revenue for two patents in question, however Oracle declined the offer and pushed forward with the appeal proceedings.

Despite problems encountered by the jury in achieving a complete consensus, they eventually declared that Google had indeed copied Java code for Android, but without infringing any copyrights. Judge Alsup's subsequent ruling was viewed as significant for the entire industry, indicating likely difficulty in pursuing copyright claims related to APIs in open-source software.

by MacNN Staff



  1. slapppy

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 03-23-08

    Busted, because "Java APIs are subject to copyright protection"

    " Google had indeed copied Java code for Android but without infringing any copyrights"

  1. climacs

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 09-06-01

    I look forward to Fandroids ceasing to accuse Apple of copying everything they do from someone else.


  1. wrenchy

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 11-03-09

    Originally Posted by slapppyView Post

    Busted, because "Java APIs are subject to copyright protection"

    " Google had indeed copied Java code for Android but without infringing any copyrights"

    Appeals Court doesn't understand the difference between software and an API; and neither do the iDiots on this board.
    SOFTWARE should be patentable. API's should not. See the difference??

    Judge William Alsup (who had previously written code) had knowledge of how software engineering worked:
    "So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different," the judge wrote, "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 [to achieve work-alike functionality]," adding that "where there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolise that expression."

    Looks like people who know nothing about software will be making the big decisions again.

  1. shawnde

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 04-01-08


    Since we don't know the difference, why don't you enlighten us all? What you quoted doesn't say much about the difference. If you don't know either (I'm guessing you don't), then I'll give it a try:

    Practically ALL software on the market today is written against one or more API's .... essentially any piece os software is an arrangement of the different lego pieces of any API which is provided by the platform vendor or a third party. So for example, [good] iPhone apps for the most port are written against the CocoaTouch API, along with the developer's custom code (business logic). And indeed, you can override specific functions within CocoaTouch, so for example, if you're not happy with the performance or implementation, then you can do that.

    However, to say that software is patentable and API's are not, is silly. API's are the foundational blocks of any software. Obviously, that's why the implementations are always HIDDEN from the developer .... all you have are the function headers. Everything else is abstracted away. If it was not patentable, then I'm sure every API on the market would be made open source; most of the good ones are not.

    Also, if I remember correctly, the main crux of this case, had to do with Google overriding the Java Virtual Machine with an implementation of their own (Dalvik), but still making it compatible with the Java API. This is completely against the rules of engagement, at least from the perspective of the Java license. You CANNOT override the JVM and still call it Java .... that's the whole point of Java. They control the runtime and byte code generation in order to keep their promise of "write once and run everywhere" (which doesn't work all the time). Therefore, if Google wanted their own JVM, they should have written one from scratch and built their own API, which is exactly what Microsoft did with .NET .... they copied a lot of concepts from Java; they built an intermediate language (.NET IL), and they built their own API and syntax (C# and .NET Framework), plus their own runtime.

    Google on the other hand, simply copied the Java code which implements the JVM, and built their own JVM which is NOT backwards compatible to other Java implementations, and they kept the Java Framework and API's as their standard API to build Android apps. Even open source developers would be upset at that kind of devilry.

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