U.S. court questions Google defense against Oracle over Android

Wed Dec 4, 2013 1:41pm EST
 
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By Dan Levine

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday closely questioned Google's claim that Oracle does not enjoy copyright protection over certain parts of the Java programming language.

The issue, under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, is being closely watched by software developers in Silicon Valley.

Google's Android operating system is the world's best-selling smartphone platform. The Java programming language was created by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired in 2010. Oracle sued Google later that year, claiming that Google had improperly incorporated parts of Java into Android.

Oracle President and Chief Financial Officer Safra Catz, who took the stand during trial last year, appeared in court on Wednesday to hear the appellate arguments. She declined to comment outside the courtroom. Google attorney Robert Van Nest also declined to comment.

The case examined whether computer language that connects programs - known as application programming interfaces, or APIs - can be copyrighted.

At trial in San Francisco last year, Oracle claimed Google's Android tramples on its rights to the structure of 37 Java APIs. Oracle sought roughly $1 billion on its copyright claims.

Google argued that Oracle cannot copyright the structure of Java, an open-source or publicly available software language. U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the Java APIs replicated by Google were not subject to copyright protection and free for all to use.

Oracle appealed. At the hearing on Wednesday, Federal Circuit Judge Kathleen O'Malley questioned whether Alsup's ruling meant Google could similarly use APIs from companies like Apple or Microsoft.   Continued...

 
Google's Android 4.3 operating system, is announced to be installed in the new Nexus 7 tablet, during a Google event at Dogpatch Studio in San Francisco, California, July 24, 2013. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach