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Judge rules for Google, against Oracle, in copyright case

By Brandon Bailey, San Jose Mercury News –

SAN JOSE, Calif. — In a significant win for Google Inc., a federal judge Thursday rejected Oracle Corp.’s claim that the Android mobile software violated copyrights on key elements of the Java programming system.

While the case is still subject to appeal, the decision by U.S. District Judge William Alsup clears away the last big claim that Oracle had pending in what started out as a multi-billion dollar lawsuit alleging that Google stole some of Oracle’s intellectual property when it created the popular Android software.

“To accept Oracle’s claim would be to allow anyone to copyright one version of code to carry out a system of commands and thereby bar all others from writing their own different versions to carry out all or part of the same commands,” Alsup wrote in a 41-page decision. “No holding has ever endorsed such a sweeping proposition.”

Oracle can still seek damages for some copyright violations that were previously found in the case, but both sides had agreed those violations — which involve a small number of computer files — were relatively minor. Under a previous agreement between the parties, Oracle will ask the judge to rule on a request for statutory damages, which the law sets at a maximum of $150,000.

The ruling issued Thursday was highly anticipated in the tech industry. Alsup was deciding whether the structure and design of certain elements in the Java system, known as Application Programming Interfaces, were protected by copyright. The judge said the 37 APIs in question were not protected by copyright in this case, but he cautioned that he was not making a broader ruling.

“This order does not hold that Java API packages are free for all to use without license,” he wrote. “Rather, it holds on the specific facts of this case, the particular elements replicated by Google were free for all to use under the copyright act.”

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