Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc., No. 17-1118 (Fed. Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Oracle’s Java platform for computer programming allows programmers to write programs that “run on different types of computer hardware without having to rewrite them for each different type.” Java Application Programming Interface (API) is a collection of “pre-written Java source code programs for common and more advanced computer functions.” To include a particular function in a program, the programmer invokes the Java “declaring code,” and “implementing code,” which takes the input(s) and gives the computer step-by-step instructions to carry out the declared function. Oracle sued, alleging that Google’s unauthorized use of Oracle Java API packages in its Android operating system infringed Oracle’s copyrights, 17 U.S.C. 107(1). The Federal Circuit held that declaring code and the API packages' structure, sequence, and organization are entitled to copyright protection. The Supreme Court denied certiorari. At the second trial, Google prevailed on its fair use defense. The Federal Circuit reversed, concluding that Google’s use of the Java API packages was not fair as a matter of law, and remanded for a trial on damages. Google’s commercial use of the API packages weighs against a finding of fair use. Google merely copied the material and moved it from one platform to another without alteration, not a transformative use. Given the evidence of actual and potential harm, “unrestricted and widespread conduct of the sort engaged in by” Google would result in “a substantially adverse impact on the potential market for the original” and its derivatives.