Google Appeal in Oracle Java Case Draws Supreme Court Inquiry

13 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Google Appeal in Oracle Java Case Draws Supreme Court Inquiry.

Months after the Supreme Court chiseled away at patent protections for software, Google Inc. and other companies now want the justice to set limits on how software makers can use copyrights to assert exclusive rights over programs. WSJ’s Brent Kendall reports on Google’s request for the high court to intervene in a copyright-infringement case brought by Oracle Corp. over copyrights for the popular Java programming platform: The search giant’s request is pending in an appeal the justices could act on as soon as Monday. Supreme Court asked the Obama administration for advice on Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s appeal in its copyright clash with Oracle Corp. (ORCL:US) over the Android smartphone operating system. It presents the court with a chance to consider the extent to which software innovations can be copied without permission from the original developer. Oracle acquired Java when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010 and sued Google the same year, alleging that Google’s widely used Android operating system for smartphones infringed copyrights on the Java platform.

A trial judge barred Oracle from pressing certain copyright claims against Google, then an appeals court last year reversed that ruling and sided with Oracle. Google said in court papers that had last year’s ruling for Oracle been the law of the land at the dawn of the Internet age, “early computer companies could have blocked vast amounts of technological development by claiming 95-year copyright monopolies over the basic building blocks of computer design and programming.” Oracle, meanwhile, says Google’s bid to limit copyrights would vitiate legal protections that are central to growth in the software industry. “Google has not come up with any explanation for why Oracle’s code loses copyright protection but all other code still retains protection,” said Joshua Rosenkranz, a lawyer with Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who represents Oracle. Oracle alleges that Google unlawfully copied from 37 packages of pre-written Java programs that serve as shortcuts for building common computer functions into other software programs.

The dispute centers on application programming interfaces, or APIs, code that lets programmers take advantage of functions already built into an operating system. Oracle says it spent years and millions of dollars developing the shortcuts and claims that Google should have paid for a license or written all of its own code. They say that if copyright is so broad as to cover the basic interfaces of software products, then it will be more difficult to make programs and products compatible with one another. Google, which says it replicated only small bits of code, argues that Oracle shouldn’t be able to claim copyright on basic computer commands in software.

Street View is a product that enables users to navigate images of streets created from a series of photographic images taken by cameras positioned on top of cars. Oracle’s supporters say there are other legal doctrines, like the concept of fair use, that allow follow-on innovators to copy in some circumstances. CLS Bank, the court ruled software makers couldn’t take well-known concepts or methods, such as hedging risk in financial transactions, place them into a computer program and claim a patent.

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