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Copyrights, APIs, and Oracle vs Google


We still don’t know what will happen with Oracle’s accusations that Google violated its patents. Given that Oracle itself doesn’t value the two remaining patents as being worth much, that decision won’t matter much. No, the real question is what will U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup will do with notion that Java’s application programming interfaces (API)s, and hence all APIs, could be copyrighted. That’s the real $64-million (billion?) question

Alsup instructed the jury to treat APIs as if they could be copyrighted, and they agreed with him on that. What they couldn’t do is decide though whether Google had violated fair use in what it did with Java’s APIs in creating Android.

As Pamela Jones, intellectual property law reporter, paralegal, and founder of Groklaw explained to me, “The jury didn’t decide API are copyrightable. They can’t. That’s a question of law, and the judge is the one that has to decide that issue.”

Jones stated that Alsup “decided that he’d let the jury decide the fair use issue first, and then if they found fair use, he wouldn’t have to reach that decision. But if they found infringement and no fair use, then he would decide if APIs are copyrightable and more specifically if their arrangement is protectible.”

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