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Google’s claims about Java questioned

by on05 December 2013

This could get messy

A U.S. appeals court questioned Google's claim that Oracle does not enjoy copyright protection over certain parts of the Java programming language. The issue is being closely watched by software developers in Silicon Valley as it could cripple the industry with patent trollage on a grand scale if Oracle wins.

Oracle acquired Sun in 2010 and sued Google later that year, claiming that Google had improperly incorporated parts of Java into Android. The case examined application programming interfaces (APIs) can be copyrighted. Oracle claimed Google's Android tramples on its rights to the structure of 37 Java APIs. Oracle sought roughly $1 billion on its copyright claims. Google argued that Oracle cannot copyright the structure of Java, an open-source or publicly available software language. US District Judge William Alsup ruled that the Java APIs replicated by Google were not subject to copyright protection and free for all to use.

Alsup was a programmer and actually knew what he was talking about, and said that Java APIs, were not subject to copyright. Oracle appealed.

At the hearing on Wednesday, Federal Circuit Judge Kathleen O'Malley questioned whether Alsup's ruling meant Google could similarly use APIs from companies like Apple or Microsoft. Google attorney Robert Van Nest said that was true, but that Google still cannot copy actual source code from competitors. Google spent over two years and millions of dollars writing source code for Android, Van Nest said.

"Fifteen million lines of Android source code were original," Van Nest said.

Oracle attorney Joshua Rosenkranz asked the appeals court to rule that Java APIs were subject to copyright, and that Google was not entitled to a fair use defense. However, Van Nest said if the Federal Circuit decides that copyright applies to the APIs, a second jury should consider fair use.

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