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Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright - UPDATE 1 ~mw
Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:25 PM EDT

We have just received the news that Judge Alsup ruled against Oracle, finding that APIs are not subject to copyright protection. In a 41-page opinion (1202 [PDF]), Judge Alsup summarized his ruling as follows:

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. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.

It is true that the very same functionality could have been offered in Android without duplicating the exact command structure used in Java. This could have been done by re-arranging the various methods under different groupings among the various classes and packages (even if the same names had been used). In this sense, there were many ways to group the methods yet still duplicate the same range of functionality.

But the names are more than just names — they are symbols in a command structure wherein the commands take the form

java.package.Class.method()

Each command calls into action a pre-assigned function. The overall name tree, of course, has creative elements but it is also a precise command structure — a utilitarian and functional set of symbols, each to carry out a pre-assigned function. This command structure is a system or method of operation under Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act and, therefore, cannot be copyrighted. Duplication of the command structure is necessary for interoperability.
In his analysis Judge Alsup displays an understanding of programming and of the Java language that is not to be expected from a federal judge. He has also been very thorough in his review of the law. He has done his best to assure that this decision will withstand the anticipated appeal.

At the same time, the Court has also ruled on the equitable defenses posed by Google (1203 [PDF]). The Court found the defenses of implied license and waiver to be ineffective. At the same time, the Court withheld its determination of the applicability of the defenses of laches and equitable estoppel, stating that it would only decide those issues if the case is remanded on appeal.

Finally, Judge Alsup has called for a case management conference to be held on June 21 to address what further proceedings are needed. (1204 [PDF]) Given this decision and the earlier stipulation with respect to damages, it is likely that this case is now closed.

Oracle has nothing to show for all of its efforts.

For those who have depended on the self-described patent expert for your understanding of this case . . . well, maybe now you will know better than to trust a paid spokesman.


***************

Docket

05/31/2012 - 1202 - ORDER RE COPYRIGHTABILITY OF CERTAIN REPLICATED ELEMENTS OF THE JAVA APPLICATION PROGRAMMING INTERFACE by Judge William Alsup [granting 984 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law; granting 1007 Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law; finding as moot 1105 Motion for New Trial]. (whasec, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/31/2012) (Entered: 05/31/2012)

05/31/2012 - 1203 - FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW ON EQUITABLE DEFENSES re 1049 Proposed Findings of Fact filed by Oracle America, Inc., 1047 Proposed Findings of Fact filed by Google Inc.. Signed by Judge Alsup on May 31, 2012. (whalc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/31/2012) (Entered: 05/31/2012)

05/31/2012 - 1204 - NOTICE OF CASE MANAGEMENT CONFERENCE. Signed by Judge Alsup on May 31, 2012. (whalc1, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/31/2012) (Entered: 05/31/2012)



  


Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright - UPDATE 1 ~mw | 95 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:30 PM EDT
WOOT!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright
Authored by: eric76 on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:30 PM EDT
Great news. I think it would have been very surprising had he decided the other
way.

[ Reply to This | # ]

yay!
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:31 PM EDT
Sanity prevails! Can't wait to read Judge Alsup's ruling on this issue.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright
Authored by: ewilts on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:32 PM EDT
I can't wait to see how thrilled the jurors are to read about this. What a
waste of their time.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I'm mesmerized by this message
Authored by: IMANAL_TOO on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:32 PM EDT
I'm mesmerized by this message. I have read it several times already.

Brilliant!

Thanks Judge Alsup!


---
______
IMANAL


.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Everyone wins! Even Oracle
Authored by: om1er on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:35 PM EDT
Everyone, including Oracle, would have lost if he decided the other way.

---
March 23, 2010 - Judgement day.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:35 PM EDT
Ruling at scribd

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:35 PM EDT
http://pt.scribd.com/zdnetrachel/d/95477548-Oracle-v-Google-
Order-Regarding-Copyrightability-of-APIs

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright
Authored by: Kaemaril on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:37 PM EDT

So how long do you suppose Oracle will wait before filing the appeal? Five minutes? Ten? :)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright
Authored by: clemenstimpler on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:38 PM EDT
Looking at the way Judge Alsup has handled matters until now, there may even be
a good chance that his order will survive appeal.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wonderful!
Authored by: RPN on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:42 PM EDT
This is excellent news. Except for Oracle but I never loose any sleep over it
anyway.

Thanks PJ and Mark for all your work keeping on top of the case for us all and
to all the reporters from the court who have been wonderful. And the community
of course who are an education in themselves for me.

Richard.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Judge Alsup praises counsel in the ruling
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:43 PM EDT
Just before the Summary of Ruling section:
Counsel on both sides have supplied excellent briefing and the Court wishes to recognize their extraordinary effort and to thank counsel, including those behind the scenes burning the midnight oil in law libraries, for their assistance.

What a classy guy Judge Alsup is!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Prediction: Mueller: "This is a win for Oracle. It's really about the 9 lines"
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:44 PM EDT
Or perhaps he will talk about the inevitable appeals...

[ Reply to This | # ]

brilliant!
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:46 PM EDT
The ruling relies on 102(b):
But the names are more than just names -- they are symbols in a command structure wherein the commands take the form

java.package.Class.method()

Each command calls into action a pre-assigned function. The overall name tree, of course, has creative elements but it is also a precise command structure -- a utilitarian and functional set of symbols, each to carry out a pre-assigned function. This command structure is a system or method of operation under Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act and, therefore, cannot be copyrighted. Duplication of the command structure is necesary for interoperability.

[ Reply to This | # ]

And appeals look rather unlikely to succeed if/when the next judge reads Alsup's comments...
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 05:54 PM EDT
“this circumstance is so innocuous and overblown by Oracle that the actual
facts,
as found herein by the judge, will be set forth below for the benefit of the
court
of appeals.”

[ Reply to This | # ]

"Contrary to Oracle, there is no bright line between the language and the API". YES YES YES!
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:05 PM EDT
Page 12.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A very astute Judge!
Authored by: seanlynch on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:09 PM EDT

Many people who program thought it should be simple and obvious that API's should not be copyright-able.

However, I believe now that Judge Alsup knew this and also understood that the simple and obvious is sometimes very difficult to deal with in Court. His decision could have effects on the entire software industry and far beyond. With this decision, he is enforcing what was common practice for decades in more than just Software.

I hope his decision is resistant to challenge. It certainly looks like he took the time to make it so. This could be case law that is studied and referred to for years to come.

This is a good day for justice.

[ Reply to This | # ]

A little muddled on some details...
Authored by: Gringo_ on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:09 PM EDT

In 2008, the Java API had 166 “packages,” broken into more than six hundred “classes,”all broken into over six thousand “methods.” This is very close to saying the Java API had166 “folders” (packages), all including over six hundred pre-written programs (classes) to carryout a total of over six thousand subroutines (methods). Google replicated the exact names andexact functions of virtually all of these 37 packages but, as stated, took care to use different code to implement the six thousand-plus subroutines (methods) and six-hundred-plus classes.

I sure hope a few muddled details don't invalidate the ruling! First he speaks of "the Java API had 166 “packages,” ", then says "Google replicated the exact names and exact functions of virtually all of these 37 packages", without precedent for these 37 packages. Then goes on to say "took care to use different code to implement the six thousand-plus subroutines (methods) and six-hundred- plus classes.", but the that refers to all of Java, not just the part Google used.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Wot wazzat, Larry?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:26 PM EDT
Not a patent case? All about copyright?

Ooooooh KAYY!!!!

All about NOTHING!

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright - UPDATE 1
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:26 PM EDT
Excellent. Thanks PJ. Thanks for your wonderful work posting
us the updates and analysis during the whole case. I was sick
of every news paper and so called 'tech journalists' quoting
the one self proclaimed 'patent expert'.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I think it would be fair to say 'Judge Alsup Rules!'
Authored by: GriffMG on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:31 PM EDT
I just took a few minutes to read his ruling.

By gum that is a piece of work, I can't see anything that would give Oracle any
wriggle room in appeal. Mind you, this is the same legal team that argued over
the APA in SCO/Novell...

I want to thank Judge Alsup for putting the effort in and I hope it sticks.

---
Keep B-) ing

[ Reply to This | # ]

Florian Mueller joke thread here please
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:35 PM EDT
If you must discuss his doubtless hilarious analysis of why Judge Alsup is just
so wrong, oh so sadly wrong, please put it here so that we can keep it in one
steaming pile.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Page 35... brilliant.
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 06:43 PM EDT
Based on a single implementation, Oracle would bypass the entire patent scheme
and claim ownership of any and all ways to carry out methods for 95 years -
without any vetting by the copyright office. This order holds that under the
Copyright Act, no matter how creative or imaginative a Java method specification

may be, the entire world is entitled to use the same method specification
(inputs,
outputs, parameters) so long as the line-by-line implementation are different.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle plans to appeal - confirmed
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 07:06 PM EDT
Article link

Quote:

Oracle is committed to the protection of Java as both a valuable development platform and a valuable intellectual property asset. It will vigorously pursue an appeal of this decision in order to maintain that protection and to continue to support the broader Java community of over 9 million developers and countless law abiding enterprises. Google's implementation of the accused APIs is not a free pass, since a license has always been required for an implementation of the Java Specification. And the court's reliance on "interoperability" ignores the undisputed fact that Google deliberately eliminated interoperability between Android and all other Java platforms. Google's implementation intentionally fragmented Java and broke the "write once, run anywhere" promise. This ruling, if permitted to stand, would undermine the protection for innovation and invention in the United States and make it far more difficult to defend intellectual property rights against companies anywhere in the world that simply takes them as their own.

They genuinely seem to be under the impression that fragmentation is a copyright issue. I'm not sure what else the judge could have done to make that point clearer - other than ordering the execution of their counsel and board. Baffling.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright - UPDATE 1
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 07:56 PM EDT
This same decision was taken in Germany about two weeks ago. In effect, the
German judge indicated that calling conventions were not copyrightable.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Srsly!
Authored by: celtic_hackr on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 08:21 PM EDT
Seriously wonderful news!

[ Reply to This | # ]

rangeCheck() and damages?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 09:06 PM EDT
Great ruling. :)

But I can't get whether the judge has ruled on rangeCheck(),
de minimis ... and any statutory damages or otherwise? He
talks about it in this ruling, but there seems to be no
decision...

So will the ruling on rangeCheck() and any associated damages
come later?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Oracle v. Google - Judge Alsup Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright - UPDATE 1
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, May 31 2012 @ 10:43 PM EDT
Does this mean there will be a share holder lawsuit against Oracle's officers
for mis-leading the share holders? They did say something about this being 6
Billion dollars. Sounds like they were trying to jack up the share price over,
really, nothing....

[ Reply to This | # ]

Tight
Authored by: Anonymous on Friday, June 01 2012 @ 06:27 PM EDT
Just finished reading the opinion; intermittently taking a 1 hour nap - it's
long. Alsup's write-up is very thorough, hard seeing Oracle winning any appeals.

[ Reply to This | # ]

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