We at the Virtualization Practice have been following the Oracle v. Google case regarding the “fair use” of Java APIs since its inception. For historical perspective, you can read these here, here, and here.
But first, a bit of history. This case started in August 2010, when negotiations between Oracle and Google about licensing Java broke down. The case was assigned to Judge William Alsup, who split it into three distinct phases, these being copyright, patent, and damages. The court stated that there was no infringement of patents, and therefore no damages were awarded to Oracle. With regard to the API copyright infringement, the jury ruled that there was infringement, but it could not reach a decision on Google’s fair use defense. When the court released its decision, Judge Alsup ruled that:
“So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, 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 in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical.” The ruling found that the structure Oracle was claiming was not copyrightable under section 102(b) of the Copyright Act because it was a “system or method of operation.”
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