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Brawl Over Programming Language Hits Federal Circuit

(CN) - Google and Oracle are back in court to fight over whether certain programming language can be copyrighted after Oracle appealed a decision last year that sided with Google.

The Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., is hearing the appeal in which Oracle claims that it should be given copyright protection over portions of its Java application programming interfaces (APIs).

Oracle originally brought suit against Google in 2010, claiming that Google's use of the Java source code in its Android phones constituted copyright and patent infringement. It said Google had copied the APIs and other technology, which Oracle acquired in 2010, to rush the Android operating system to the market. Oracle sought $1 billion in damages.

Google argued that the Java programming language is free to use and that the APIs are required to use the language.

In May 2012, a jury handed down a partial victory to Oracle, finding that Google infringed on Oracle's copyrights for 37 of its 166 Java APIs. The jury did not determine whether the copying constituted fair use, and cleared Google of other copyright infringement charges.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup disagreed with the jury, however, and ruled that the APIs copied by Google were not copyrightable. Oracle's copyright infringement claim was dismissed, leading to Oracle's appeal.

During oral arguments this week in the federal court of appeals, Oracle's lawyer Josh Rosenkranz argued that Google "took the most important, the most appealing" parts of the Java language to create Android, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

Judge Kathleen O'Malley reportedly said during a Wednesday hearing that the ability to access Java programming for free does not mean that it is not protected by copyright.

Technology companies Microsoft, EMC and Netapp are on Oracle's side. They issued a joint brief supporting Oracle's position, stating that Alsup's decision "sets a dangerous and ill-advised precedent."

Having no promise of some "threshold copyright protection for platforms like Java specifically and other elements of computer software generally" would "have sweeping and harmful effects throughout the software industry," according to the brief.

A decision on the appeal is not expected for several months.

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