U.S. Supreme Court Says No Thanks to
Google vs. Oracle Battle

IP News and Information

Recently, we discussed the ongoing legal battle between Google and Oracle over the latter company’s ability to copyright its Java application programming interface (APIs). A lower court previously ruled that Oracle could indeed copyright its Java APIs. However, Google had argued that ruling all the way to the United States Supreme Court and was waiting to hear if the court would hear the case. Many computer and high-tech companies, as well program developers and legal experts, were anxiously waiting the court’s decision as to whether or not it would hear the case. The wait is over and the court has decided not to hear the case, which was a huge victory for Oracle.

Court Turns a Deaf Ear to Google

The crux of the problem lies in Oracle’s claim that the Google’s Android operating system was violating Oracle’s copyright protections by inappropriately incorporating some portions of its Java technology. Google had argued that the previous court’s ruling that Oracle could copyright its APIs would serve to undermine “the basic building blocks of computer design and programming.” Had the court decided to hear the case many considered it an opportunity to better define the legal boundaries in the battle over software protection. However, despite the ruling, the legal battles between the two companies are expected to continue in federal court over several other issues.

Decision Could Have Harmful Effects

The ruling has been met with mixed reviews but there has been a lot of outcry that the nation’s highest court would not even hear the matter, especially among those in the computer programming and developing world. For example, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) stated that the court’s decision demonstrated a complete “misunderstanding of both computer science and copyright law. Treating APIs as copyrightable would have a profound negative impact on interoperability, and, therefore, innovation." Meanwhile, according to one of the board members of the Open Source Initiative, “developers will now need to avoid any API that is not explicitly licensed as open.”

Ultimately Consumers Will Pay

Ultimately the court’s decision not to hear the case could have far-reaching effects on the API economy. Now that APIs are considered copyrightable, after being open for more than 30 years the way software law is handled will forever be changed. What’s more, the decision could open the door to a world where copyright owners can suppress both innovation and competition by enforcing their intellectual property rights. That could hurt not only developers, programmers and companies, but it will also likely hurt consumers as well.

Make Sure You Know Which APIs You’re Using

Whether or not you agree with the decision, the bottom line now is that anyone who uses APIs better be sure that they are truly open or they could end up being the subject of a copyright lawsuit, which apparently would now most likely be in the API owner’s favor.