As a follow-up to our earlier article (SDKs and APIs: Do they have copyright protection?), the jury in the Oracle v. Google lawsuit issued a decision last week that Google’s Android software infringed copyright in the overall structure, sequence and organization of Oracle’s Java code. However, the jury failed to return a decision on Google’s “fair use” defence. Oracle’s main complaint was that Google’s Android software used Java code - in particular, 37 Java APIs (application programming interfaces) - that was not properly licensed from Oracle. Google has maintained that the use of any Java APIs in Android is protected by a “fair use” defence.
You’d think a jury decision would be a step forward. However, the issue of copyright protection of APIs remains unsettled, since the jury merely assumed copyright protection for the purposes of this issue, without a clear decision by the court on that point. The failure to decide on the “fair use” defence also leaves the issue open. The jury was deadlocked on that question, potentially leading to a mistrial. Indeed, Google filed for a new trial last week.
This jury decision is really just a way-station on the road… a very long road. The next phase of the lawsuit will deal with Oracle’s patent infringement claims; which will be followed by a further hearing to determine any damages. Stay tuned.
Related Reading: Copyrightability of Java APIs would be consistent with law and practice, not a ’substantial departure’ for industry (FOSS Patents)