05 April 2021

SCOTUS Continues To Tame Intellectual Property

The U.S. Supreme Court continues to weaken the pro-IP holder intellectual property rulings of the Federal Circuit (a policy with bipartisan support in the nation's highest court with which I agree).

This case involved the question of whether the Android OS code infringed Oracle's copyright. As the Court explained in its official syllabus of its decision.
Oracle America, Inc., owns a copyright in Java SE, a computer platform that uses the popular Java computer programming language. In 2005, Google acquired Android and sought to build a new software platform for mobile devices. To allow the millions of programmers familiar with the Java programming language to work with its new Android platform, Google copied roughly 11,500 lines of code from the Java SE program. The copied lines are part of a tool called an Application Programming Interface (API). An API allows programmers to call upon prewritten computing tasks for use in their own programs. Over the course of protracted litigation, the lower courts have considered (1) whether Java SE’s owner could copyright the copied lines from the API, and (2) if so, whether Google’s copying constituted a permissible “fair use” of that material freeing Google from copyright liability. 
In the proceedings below, the Federal Circuit held that the copied lines are copyrightable. After a jury then found for Google on fair use, the Federal Circuit reversed, concluding that Google’s copying was not a fair use as a matter of law. Prior to remand for a trial on damages, the Court agreed to review the Federal Circuit’s determinations as to both copyrightability and fair use.
Held: Google’s copying of the Java SE API, which included only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, was a fair use of that material as a matter of law.
Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., Case No. 18-956 (April 5, 2021) (6-2).

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