Oracle vs Google Java API case: blurring the distinction between patents and copyrights

Patent Law Log

Although this is normally a patent law blog, a recent copyright court case:  Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc. is showing that at times, the difference between patents and copyrights is not as distinct as you might think or like.  You can see the court decision here:

http://cafc.uscourts.gov/images/stories/opinions-orders/13-1021.Opinion.5-7-2014.1.PDF

As I understand it, Google attempted to reverse engineer Java by using standard « clean room » (e.g. fresh and original code) techniques. However in the case of 37 Java API classes, Google copied some elements on the belief (based on prior case law such as a 1995 Lotus v Borland case) that because these API were functional, such functional elements were therefore not copyright protected.

Oracle, which obtained rights to Java when it acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010, did not agree.

In the May 9, 2014 decision, the Court sided with Oracle.  The Court rejected the Lotus finding, and about 20 years…

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