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US Judge does not follow APIs copyright stretch of Euro Court

While the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on 2 May that application program interfaces (APIs) generally are not subject to copyrights, a US Judge decided on 31 May that even though Google did not infringe Oracle's Java APIs, it is only the APIs in question that are not eligible for copyright protection.

Judge Alsup, of the District Court of Northern California, said that APIs constitute the 'structure, sequence, and organisation' of a program and 'so long as the specific different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write...code to carry out exactly the same function.' Oracle had claimed Google's Android operating system infringed 37 Java API packages. The US court judgment did not refer to the ECJ decision.

"The method specifications were not infringed because the rules of the Java programming language required these to be identical for the Android API to 'talk' to Java," said Philip James, Partner at Pitmans LLP.

Judge Alsup was keen to stress that the ruling applies only 'to the specific facts of this case' and not to the larger issue of whether companies can copyright APIs.

Even "if the underlying source code is not copied, this doesn't necessarily mean the developer's copyright has not been infringed. Each case must be determined on its facts," said James.

"Whilst Google have won this battle, the war is not over," said James. "Developers who wish to replicate functionality of a competitor's software should remain wary of potential infringement."

Sophie Cameron

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