Last week the jury in the Google vs Oracle trial ruled that Google did not infringe any of Oracle’s patents, and more news has now come out of the case. The judge has ruled that APIs are not copyrightable, marking the first time a court has addressed this specific issue. The judge decided that as long as the underlying code that is written 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.”
The judge went on to say that 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.” Copyright protection doesn’t extend to the names and short phrases used that Oracle claimed were infringed. As for the nine lines of code that were duplicated, it’s said that Joshua Bloch planned to submit the code to an open Java implementation for the community’s benefit.
Judge William Alsup also seems to be trying to restrict the broad patent litigation that’s so prevalent in technology nowadays. In the 41-page summary of the verdict, Alsup notes that “we should not yield to the temptation to find copyrightability merely to reward an investment made in a body of intellectual property.” The judge goes on to say that Oracle has overblown the whole case, which casts doubts on Oracle’s ability to appeal the verdict. While it’s a big win for Google, it’s surely a case that will be cited down the road in future lawsuits regarding copyright infringement.