Back in 2016, it seemed that the long-running Oracle vs. Google trial over the use of Java in Android was coming to a close. Google won a resounding victory with jurors ruling that the Android usage was fair use. Unsurprisingly, Oracle appealed and today won that decision, with wide-ranging applications for the tech industry.

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The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit sided (via Bloomberg) with Oracle this morning. In 2016, jurors found that Google’s use of declaring code, and the structure, sequence, and organization of Java APIs was fair use.

However, the court today found that Google violated Oracle’s copyright, noting that, “The fact that Android is free of charge does not make Google’s use of the Java API packages noncommercial.”

“There is nothing fair about taking a copyrighted work verbatim and using it for the same purpose and function as the original in a competing platform.”

Back in 2016, Oracle claimed that Google’s use of Java code entitled them to an $8.8 billion slice of the Android business and $475 million in lost potential licensing revenue. Google is now liable for that with a federal court in California determining the damages.

The two companies have been sparing over this issue for the last eight years. Java was created in the 1990s by Sun Microsystems, which was bought by Oracle in 2010. Eight months after the purchase, the new owners sued Google.

At the heart of this case is U.S copyright law that states functional use cases can’t be copyrighted. Many in the tech industry consider the nature and use of APIs to be inherently functional, with today’s decision possibly impending the principle of fair use in the industry.


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