• Supreme Court Issues CVSG Order in Oracle v. Google
  • June 26, 2015
  • Law Firm: Staas Halsey LLP - Washington Office
  • On January 12, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States (“Supreme Court”) invited the U.S. Solicitor General to file a brief expressing the United States’ views on the copyright infringement case between Oracle and Google. The invitation means the Supreme Court is progressing closer to potentially hearing the case. The order was in response to Google’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (“Federal Circuit”). In part, the Federal Circuit held that the declaring code, structure, sequence, and organization of Oracle’s Java application programming interfaces (“APIs”) are copyright protected. Therefore, unless done in fair use, Google is liable for infringement from using a portion of Oracle’s API code in its Android mobile phone operating system.

    If certiorari is granted, the Supreme Court may review whether a system or method of operation in a program is precluded from copyright protection; a question that Google contends should be answered in the affirmative. Related to the question is whether an API’s interoperability usage may be a factor in determining copyrightability. While the U.S. District Court held that interoperability did preclude copyright protection, the Federal Circuit stated that it was only an affirmative defense of fair use.

    Regardless of the outcome, Oracle v. Google is likely to help shape the boundaries of software copyright protection and fair use, especially concerning APIs. However, it remains in contention whether greater or lesser copyright protection is better for the software industry.