The case continues

Google say Java is “functional”, not creative work in Oracle Android lawsuit

Chris Mayer

Oracle had its say, but now it’s Google’s turn to file its appeal in the drawn-out court case.


Three months on from Oracle’s opening appeal in the Android court battle, Google yesterday filed its own brief and cross-appeal.

In the 100-page filing, Google states that no matter how “creative and useful the Java API may be, it is fundamentally a functional, utilitarian work” designed for the “practical convenience of programmers”.

To further distinguish the difference between creative and functional works, Google take a swipe at Oracle’s analogy in which the fictional “Ann Droid” steals parts of J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” after seeing the advance copy.

A work of imaginative fiction like Harry Potter serves no such utilitarian function. Its chapter headings and topic sentences exist entirely for communicative and aesthetic purposes—not to “bring about a certain result” when used in a computer.

No court accepts Oracle’s premise that functional works like the Java API obtain the same level of copyright protection as works of imaginative fiction.

Later in the filing, Google argue that when a program element becomes an industry standard, “the loss of intellectual-property protection over time is nothing new”, citing examples such as Aspirin and Thermos. Google go on to claim that a “distinctive” term in regular use “must be free to use”, in order to enter and compete in the market. However, Florian Mueller contends that this is more applicable to trademark law, rather than copyright law.

Google believe that Oracle are too late to claim a reversal on the copyrightability of the 7,000 lines of non-implementing code within the 37 Java APIs in question, as it “failed to challenge the instruction or verdict form” during the trial or in its opening brief. The Mountain View company then went on to add that should the Court grant copyrightability, it will go to the district court “on remand to retry” its fair use argument.

Late last year, Oracle was ordered to stump up $1.1m by the presiding Judge Alsup, after the jury ruled Google had fairly used Java APIs within the Android platform. Back in February, the database giant called the judge’s ruling a “basic legal error” and that Google’s usage of Android was “decidedly unfair”.

Alongside its response, Google has filed a cross-appeal, which Oracle must reply to by July 5. The case, as ever, continues.

Image courtesy of Dan4th

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