The trial between Oracle and Google over Java is set to kick off today, with jury selection. This may not be the most exiting of occurrences but it does set the stage for what has being called the “world series of intellectual property trials.”
Oracle initially sued Google in 2010, alleging that Google infringed seven Java patents in their Android operating system. Five of these patents have already been thrown out, leaving only two. Oracle has also accused Google of violating Java copyrights, saying that the company used Java APIs and source code when creating Android.
Whether a company can claim copyright protection on an API or coding language is the main issue with this trial, making it one of interest to software developers everywhere. Google is arguing that programming languages and APIs cannot be afforded copyright protection. A portion of Google’s argument reads:
Without a computer programming language, the set of statements or instructions cannot be understood by the computer. As such, a computer language is inherently a utilitarian, nonprotectable means by which computers operate. …The protectable material is the computer program (the set of statements or instructions); the unprotectable material is the method or system (the language). So understood, original computer programs may be protected, but the medium for expression in which they are created is not.
For Oracle’s part, a section of their filing reads:
Allowing copyright protection for computer interfaces makes sense because original expressions in software are innovations of an incremental sort that Congress meant to encourage. Trade secrecy law cannot achieve this goal because interfaces can be reverse-engineered. Patent law, because of its novelty and non-obviousness requirements and examination process, protects those substantial innovations, claimed as broadly and generically as possible, and in return gives strong protection against even those who independently develop the same technology. Copyright law protects innovations at a much finer level of detail (where original expression can be found) than patents ever could, but only offers protection against the copyist.