Bloomberg BNA’s Patent Trademark & Copyright Law Daily™is the IP industry’s premier news service, offering objective, timely,and reliable daily news coverage and commentary from leading IP law...
By Tony Dutra
June 29 — Oracle's Java Standard Library is protectable under federal copyright law, after the U.S. Supreme Court June 29 rejected Google Inc.'s bid for review and let stand the Federal Circuit's ruling in the case.
The high court followed the advice of a brief submitted May 27 by the Office of the U.S. Solicitor General.
The government said that the law is clear that computer programs are, indeed, protected under the Copyright Act, and it made no distinction between programs and the Java library “declaring code” at issue here.
Google's implementation of the Android operating system for mobile phones is now in jeopardy. But it still has another argument—fair use—that has yet to play out fully in the district court case.
This case arose with Google's creation of its Android operating system, used in smartphones made by Samsung, Motorola, HTC and many other manufacturers. Google did so by replicating support for over 6,000 functions from the Java programming environment.
Google re-wrote the programs implementing those functions themselves, and they are not at issue in the case. Rather, the infringement charge here involves the way programmers take advantage of the “declaring code” to allow those functions to be incorporated in their programs.
The feature, which Java developer Sun Microsystems—now part of Oracle—called a “write once, run anywhere” (WORA) platform in 1996, simplifies life for application programmers. Google's decision to copy much of the declaring code was in lieu of writing a separate Android declaring code—which would have required application programmers to write two sets of code for each application.
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that the Java packages were not protected under copyright law.
In May 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said that the trial court had erroneously taken into account infringement issues such as the merger doctrine and the fair use doctrine when resolving the question of protectability.
Google petitioned the Supreme Court for review on Oct. 6, focused on a provision of the Copyright Act, 17 U.S.C. §102(b), that states that protection will not “extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery.”
Whether copyright protection extends to all elements of an original work of computer software, including a system or method of operation, that an author could have written in more than one way.
The court Jan. 12 asked the government to submit its views on the question.
The government rejected Google's argument. Section 102(b) codified the idea-expression dichotomy, it said. It specifies that expression, not ideas, are protectable, but it does not limit the kinds of expressions that were protected.
The case—dubbed “the ‘World Series' of intellectual property trials” by the Judge William H. Alsup of the Northern District of California—is not over, though.
Google also argued fair use before the district court, saying that exclusive copyrights in the Java library would generally interfere with competitors' ability to make interoperable technologies.
That issue was raised in the appeal, but the Federal Circuit remanded the issue.
The court's decision that the library was protectable, in fact, faulted the district court for taking the fair use doctrine, under Section 107, into account when resolving the question of protectability, under Sections 101 and 102.
Interoperability went to the second fair use factor, the Federal Circuit indicated, as part of the “lower degree of protection” given when the nature of the work contains a substantially functional nature. However, the district court had not conducted “that type of filtration analysis” yet, the appeals court said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Tony Dutra in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Blake Brittain at email@example.com
Petition is at http://pub.bna.com/ptcj/140410petition.pdf.
SG brief is at http://pub.bna.com/ptcj/140410SGbrief.pdf.
All Bloomberg BNA treatises are available on standing order, which ensures you will always receive the most current edition of the book or supplement of the title you have ordered from Bloomberg BNA’s book division. As soon as a new supplement or edition is published (usually annually) for a title you’ve previously purchased and requested to be placed on standing order, we’ll ship it to you to review for 30 days without any obligation. During this period, you can either (a) honor the invoice and receive a 5% discount (in addition to any other discounts you may qualify for) off the then-current price of the update, plus shipping and handling or (b) return the book(s), in which case, your invoice will be cancelled upon receipt of the book(s). Call us for a prepaid UPS label for your return. It’s as simple and easy as that. Most importantly, standing orders mean you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you’re relying on. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.960.1220 or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Put me on standing order at a 5% discount off list price of all future updates, in addition to any other discounts I may quality for. (Returnable within 30 days.)
Notify me when updates are available (No standing order will be created).
This Bloomberg BNA report is available on standing order, which ensures you will all receive the latest edition. This report is updated annually and we will send you the latest edition once it has been published. By signing up for standing order you will never have to worry about the timeliness of the information you need. And, you may discontinue standing orders at any time by contacting us at 1.800.372.1033, option 5, or by sending us an email to email@example.com.
Put me on standing order
Notify me when new releases are available (no standing order will be created)