SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A federal judge refused to dismiss most claims in a lawsuit alleging that Google’s Android operating system infringed on Java copyrights owned by Oracle.
Google had sought summary judgment on the basis that similarities between Android and Java are based on unprotected elements. It had also claimed that copying code files was minor. U.S. District Judge William Alsup rejected both claims Thursday but agreed that the names of Java application programming interface (API) files are not protected as a matter of law.
Alsup sided with Oracle that each of the allegedly copied 12 Java code files should be considered a separate work for the purposes of this case, not convinced by Google’s claim that such files are de minimis when stacked against the entire Java platform.
Google tried to apply a provision that defines something as a single work when it is registered as one and only one registration fee is paid. The court found, however, that the provision means the work is considered a single work only for registration “while its elements may be recognized as separate works for other purposes.”
Alsup similarly rejected Google’s argument that, when registering a copyright, one must list titles of protected independent works that appear within a larger work. The failure to list a title does not preclude the holder from later asserting the titles as separate works, he said, chastising Google for not giving enough factual evidence to show how the provision applied and related to the present dispute.
Alsup said Google failed to adequately support its argument that API declarations are unprotectable scenes a faire or unprotectable under the merger doctrine, adding that Google did not specify what it meant by “API declarations.”
Google relied mostly on nonbinding authorities to support its argument that entire categories of elements in API specifications do not merit copyright protection, the court found. This approach “ignores the possibility that some method declarations (for example) may be subject to the merger doctrine or may be scenes a fair, whereas other method declarations may be creative contributes subject to copyright protection,” according to the ruling (parentheses in original).
Google also argued that APIs for a programming language are unprotected methods of operation. But Alsup said this tactic “attacks a straw man. It is not the APIs but rather the specifications for 37 API packages that are accused. Even if Google can show that APIs are methods of operation not subject to copyright protection, that would not defeat Oracle’s infringement claim concerning the accused specifications.”
The court did grant Google’s motion arguing that the names of Java API files, packages, classes and methods are not protectable as a matter of law. Oracle had claimed unsuccessfully that it is entitled to the presumption that the names are original, but failed to cite any authority requiring the presumption of originality as to specific elements of a registered work.
The court also noted that it had not foreclosed the possibility that Oracle’s selection and arrangement of the names is subject to copyright protection.
Also on Thursday, Oracle defended an expert report it submitted that identifies products and files, not previously disclosed to the court, as central to its patent-infringement allegations. Google had moved to strike portions of the report, saying local patent rules circumvent this tactic and that it ignores the court’s warning to fully disclose its infringement theories in its Disclosure of Asserted Claims and Infringement Contentions. Oracle responded that its report merely provides additional explanation and evidence to support the infringement theories it already disclosed.