Intellectual Property Law

New Matter WINTER 2015, Volume 40, Number 4

Software Copyright and Innovation after Oracle v. Google

Sean Hogle PC

In 1995, Sun Microsystems released the Java platform and programming language.1 The Java language, released for free use by all, is one of the most popular programming languages in the world today, taught in university computer science departments worldwide.2Developers have published thousands of java applications for servers, personal computers, and smartphones.

In 2007, Google launched the Android operating system for mobile devices, and released the source code of that system under a royalty-free and permissive open source license for free use by device manufacturers.3 To promote partial interoperability between the Java and Android platforms, Google copied a subset of the collection and organization of names, or the application programming interfaces ("APIs"), that Sun used for labeling and classifying certain functions in the Java language and platform, and included these interfaces in Android for use by application developers.

Oracle acquired Sun in 2010, and in that same year, Oracle sued Google for copyright and patent infringement in the United States Northern District of California. After a jury trial in which Oracle’s patent claims were rejected, judge Alsup ruled that the Java APIs Google copied in order to promote interoperability between the Java and Android platforms constitute an uncopyrightable method of operation under Section 102(b) of the U.S. Copyright Act ("Section 102(b)").4

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