Oracle v. Google Update: Ninth Circuit Declares Google’s Actions Fair Use

    T.J. Wolf

    As reported by Ars Technica, the District Court for the Northern District of California has determined that Google’s use of 37 Java API’s in the creation of Android was fair use.

    Google’s arguments proceeded on two primary points: that the Java language and APIs are and always have been treated as “open and free”; and that “Android was a brand-new use for the Java APIs, ‘a use that no other company, before or since, has been able to achieve.’” In essence, Google argued that what was used was freely available for all, that the use of the Java APIs differed greatly from how they were intended to be used, and that because of Android’s great success, Oracle sought to cash-in and take credit for what Android has accomplished in the mobile phone market.

    Oracle argued that each factor of the fair use analysis weighed heavily in its favor. Oracle stated that “Google copied the heart of that platform” when it copied the Java API’s and noted that “[i]f [what they copied] wasn’t important, why did Google copy it?” Oracle also maintained that they had “suffered serious harm as their Java-licensing business cratered.” Oracle argued that Google’s use of the Java API’s failed to fit any of the classic examples of fair use, such as comment, criticism, scholarship, and research; rather, Oracle asserted that Google’s use was “the height of commerciality,” a reference to Google’s $42 billion gross revenue between 2008 and 2015.

    The case and the controversy over the legal issue of fair use are far from settled. Oracle is sure to appeal the District Court’s decision, and, as we noted in a previous blog, this ruling by the District Court “leave[s] open the question of the exact extent to which copying of an API would constitute fair use.”


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    T.J. Wolf

    General Counsel & Senior Consultant

    Since joining DisputeSoft in 2016, T.J. Wolf has consulted for clients on a variety of software related matters, including breach of contract disputes, software implementation failure matters, and intellectual property matters involving allegations of copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation. By researching and analyzing documentation to produce content and support for expert reports, T.J. has become deeply involved in analyzing the root causes of many IT failure cases and assessing misappropriation in intellectual property matters.

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