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Judge Rules APIs are not capable of Copyright Protection

Written by Aasim Durrani on 07 June 2012

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Judge William Alsup, overseeing the much publicised Oracle America Inc v Google Inc before the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, has ruled that APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) can not be copyrighted.

The news comes as a major blow to Oracle, after a jury concluded last month that Google's Android mobile operating system did not infringe Oracle's patents. Oracle had issued proceedings with the hope of securing billions of dollars in damages, citing dozens of examples of patent infringement. Judge Alsup ordered the number of claims to be reduced and the hearing proceeded on the basis of two instances of claimed infringement. The jury ruled that there had been no infringement and no damages were awarded to Oracle on this basis.

Following this setback, Oracle proceeded to argue that Google had infringed its copyright relating to its APIs. APIs are sets of functions and procedures comprised of source code which allow different software components to interact with each other. The jury ruled that Google had indeed infringed the APIs cited by Oracle, but Judge Alsup exercised his power to override this finding, stating that to uphold the jury's decision would "allow anyone to copyright one version of code to carry out a system of commands and thereby bar all others from writing their own different versions to carry out all or part of the same commands."

It has been estimated that Oracle may be entitled to damages of around $150,000, which is a far cry from the billions it had initially sought. It has stated that it plans to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. For Google, the decision represents a major victory, particularly in light of the sums which were at stake when litigation was entered into.

By Aasim Durrani. Aasim is a Trainee Solicitor at Lawdit and can be contacted on aasim.durrani@lawdit.co.uk.

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