Northern California Record

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

California court denies request for new trial in Google fair use case

By S. Laney Griffo | Oct 17, 2016

SAN FRANCISCO - Google celebrated another victory against Oracle America last month when the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California denied Oracle's request for a new trial in the ongoing battle over Google's use of Oracle's Java application programming interfaces (APIs).

In this most recent attempt by Oracle to prevent Google from using their APIs, they claimed the original case only dealt with the use of APIs in Android smartphones and tablets. However, Oracle recently discovered Google's App Runtime for Chrome ++ (ARC++), which allows users to run some android applications using Chrome OS on their desktops and laptops. Oracle claimed Google neglected to bring up ARC++ in the original trial.

"Oracle now contends that Google’s failure to supplement several responses to interrogatories, requests for admission and requests for production of documents, as well as the deposition testimony of two witnesses to reflect developments in the ARC++ project, constituted discovery misconduct warranting a new trial," according to court documents.

District Judge William Alsup found at least nine documents produced by Google in the original trial that mentioned ARC++ and denied the motion for a new trial. Oracle and Google having been fighting a battle over the use of APIs for several years now. 

The saga started when Sun Microsystems developed the technology in the 1990s and Google started using the technology for APIs in their smart phones and tablets. Oracle acquired the API technology and in 2010, sued for copyright infringement.

Originally, Judge Alsup ruled the APIs were not copyright-able but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit appealed the decision in 2014. Clark Asay, is an associate professor of law at Brigham Young University who focuses on intellectual property law, has followed this case extensively. 

"The threshold for copyrighting in really low," Asay told Northern California Record"The court found APIs could be copyrighted because the creation of APIs used creativity. Using that standard, everything is copyright-able because everything uses creativity." 

Asay thought this ruling may set a new precedent for copyright cases. Section B of U.S. Code 102 states, "In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work." However, because APIs are a sort of digital language, they might fall under one of the categories listed in Section B. 

Oracle claimed Google owed it billions for the use of the APIs. Google, however, claimed fair use of the technology. 

"Google's argument was 'we've taken the technology and superseded what Sun and Oracle had done with it,'" Asay said. "In some accounts, android has spurred innovation in the market." 

Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco ruled in favor of Google. Asay sees this as a partial victory for developers.

"The decision provides comfort to developers that there could be fair use of APIs but the fact still remains they are subject to copyright." 

According to Asay, the battle is not quite over, becuase Oracle will likely appeal the fair use decision. 

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Organizations in this Story

Google, Inc. Oracle U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California San Francisco Division