Back in 2010 Oracle took Google to court claiming that Google had violated its copyright by including 37 Java APIs within Android. Although Java itself had originally belonged to Sun Microsystems,Oracle had previously acquired the rights to the popular framework.
In May 2012 it seemed that Google would win the battle, as a judge determined that the structure of the Java APIs couldn’t copyrighted and therefore shouldn’t be protected under such law. At the time Google might have found victory, but the war was just beginning.
Today it has been announced that the original ruling in Google’s favor has been reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals. The three-judge panel determined that “a set of commands to instruct a computer to carry out desired operations may contain expression that is eligible for copyright protection.”
Of course, things are far from over. The reversal means that Oracle can continue to pursue its legal case against Google, where it is asking as much as $1 billion in damages. The case has now been referred back to the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, which means its only a matter of time before the two companies return to battle before a judge.
Even after this next case is done, more than likely the losing side will end up appealing the decision and things will drag on indefinitely — not unlike the Samsung-Apple patent war.
Here’s the big question though: should APIs be subject to copyright law? Or will this only stifle innovation further? If you’re interested in learning more about the 63-page decision, you can do so by heading on over to Re/Code.