U.S. Supreme Court Ends Decade-Long Software Copyright Battle: Google Wins – Intellectual Property

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U.S. Supreme Court docket Ends Decade-Lengthy Software program Copyright Battle: Google Wins

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U.S. Supreme Court docket holds that Google’s use of a
small fraction of Oracle’s Java SE API code for its Android
platform is a good use underneath copyright legislation.

On April 5, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court docket ended a greater than
10-year battle between Google and Oracle over copyright
infringement claims regarding Google’s Android cellular platform
and Oracle’s Java programming language. In a 6-2 opinion
authored by Justice Breyer (Justice Barrett didn’t take part),
the Court docket held that Google’s use of a small fraction of
Oracle’s Java SE API code for its Android platform was
protected underneath copyright’s honest use doctrine. Though ruling
for Google on honest use, the Court docket didn’t deal with the query of
whether or not Oracle’s API declaring code was entitled to copyright
safety, as an alternative assuming “for argument’s sake”
the code was copyrightable. 

The Court docket’s ruling resolves what some have referred to as “the
copyright case of the last decade.” All of it started when Google used
a few of Oracle’s Java utility programming interfaces
(“APIs”) to develop its Android smartphone platform,
which Google launched in 2007. (APIs are prewritten packages of
code that permit software program applications to work together.) Oracle sued Google
in 2010, searching for as a lot as $9 billion in damages and accusing
Google of copying roughly 11,500 traces of declaring code from the
Java SE API (about 0.4% of the full Java API code) within the Android

Earlier than making its method to the Supreme Court docket, the case was tried
twice earlier than the district court docket and heard twice by the Federal
Circuit. After the primary trial, the district court docket held that the
Java SE API code was not copyrightable. The Federal Circuit,
nevertheless, reversed that call in 2014 and remanded for a jury
trial on honest use. On the second trial, the jury discovered for Google
on honest use. The Federal Circuit reversed that call as properly in
2018. The Supreme Court docket’s choice throws out the Federal
Circuit’s 2018 choice in its entirety.

The Court docket held that honest use, whereas a “blended query of
reality and legislation,” needs to be handled and reviewed as “a authorized
query, de novo.” It went on to conclude that
Google’s incorporation of a portion of the Java SE API was
“a good use of that materials as a matter of legislation” as a result of
“Google reimplemented a person interface, taking solely what was
wanted to permit customers to place their accrued skills to work in a brand new
and transformative program.” Justice Thomas, joined by Justice
Alito, dissented and disagreed with the end result, stating that they
would have held the Java SE API declaring code copyrightable and
additional opining that the Court docket ought to have determined that query
relatively than merely assuming copyrightability, as a result of consideration
of that query informs whether or not use of a copyrighted work is honest.
The Court docket’s choice is more likely to have a major impression in
the applying of the honest use doctrine in software program instances going

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