In the ongoing dispute between Oracle America, Inc. and Google LLC, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (the Court of Appeals) reversed the decision from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California (the District Court) denying Oracle’s motion for judgment as a matter of law, and for a new trial. The Court of Appeals concluded that Google’s use of Java application programming interface (API) packages was not fair as a matter of law and remanded the trial back to the District Court for a trial on damages. E-TIPS® previously reported on the dispute between Oracle and Google here and here.

Oracle’s predecessor developed a Java platform for computer programming in the 1990s. Although Oracle makes the Java platform freely available to programmers building applications, it has a licensing scheme in place for those who want to use the APIs in a competing platform or embed the APIs in an electronic device. In creating the Android software platform, Google copied the declaring code of 37 Java API packages verbatim and made the Android software platform freely available for use, publishing its source code under an open source license.

The Court of Appeals considered four factors in assessing Google’s fair use defence:

  1. the purpose and character of the use;
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work;
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used; and
  4. the effect upon the potential market.

The Court of Appeals concluded, among other things, that the use was commercial and non-transformative, and that the market harm to Oracle was overwhelming.

The Court of Appeals thus reversed the decision of the District Court and remanded the case for a further trial on damages.

Summary By: Michael House


18 04 04

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