Jury finds Google’s use of Oracle’s Java APIs in Android OS is fair use
By Cheryl Beise, J.D.
Following a month-long trial and three days of deliberation in Oracle’ multi-billion dollar copyright suit against Google, a federal jury in San Francisco this afternoon has unanimously determined that Google’s use of Oracle’s Java Application Programming Interface (API) in its Android operating system is protected under the fair use doctrine.
The jury was tasked with answering only one question on the special verdict form: whether Android’s use of the declaring lines of code and their structure, sequence, and organization from Java 2 Standard Edition Versions 1.4 and 1.5 constitutes a “fair use” under the Copyright Act.
Java was developed by Sun Microsystems in 1996, and quickly became one of the world’s most popular programming languages and platforms. Google used the Java language developed by Sun Microsystems for its Android mobile device platform released in 2006.
After Oracle America Inc. acquired Sun Microsystems, it filed a copyright and patent infringement suit against Google in 2010. The court bifurcated the patent and copyright cases and conducted trial in phases. In the patent case, the jury found no infringement. In the copyright case, the jury was to decide infringement, fair use, and whether any copying was de minimis; the judge was to decide issues of copyrightability and Google’s equitable defenses.
It was undisputed that 95 percent or more of the Android operating system was an original work by Google and that Google did not literally copy the Java software, but instead formulated its own implementations in 37 API packages. However, Oracle claimed Google had replicated the structure, sequence, and organization of the overall code for the 37 API packages. In May 2012, the jury found that Google had infringed compilable code for the 37 Java API packages, but it was deadlocked on whether Google’s use was protected by the fair use doctrine.
In May 31, 2012, the district court held that the “structure, sequence, and organization” of Java’s APIs constituted a non-copyrightable “method of operation” within the meaning of Section 102(b) of the Copyright Act. The court thus granted Google’s Rule 50 motion for judgment as a matter of law as to infringement of the 37 API packages.
The Federal Circuit, however, reversed the district court’s decision on copyrightability, ordered reinstatement of the jury’s infringement verdict, and remanded the case for consideration of Google’s fair use defense. The appeals court concluded that the code and the Java taxonomy as a whole—the structure, sequence, and organization of the 37 sets of Java API packages—were entitled to copyright protection. The Supreme Court denied Google’s petition for certiorari.
Today’s verdict on fair use resolves the Federal Circuit mandate, but will undoubtedly spawn a new round of post-trial motions and appeals.
The case is No. 3:10-cv-03561-WHA.
Attorneys: Annette L. Hurst (Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP) and Alanna Rutherford (Boies, Schiller, Flexner LLP) for Oracle America, Inc. Donald Frederick Zimmer, Jr. (King & Spalding LLP), Robert Addy Van Nest (Keker & Van Nest LLP) and Brian Christopher Banner (Slayden Grubert Beard PLLC) for Google Inc.
Companies: Oracle America, Inc.; Google Inc.
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