Earlier today, a Federal Judge ruled that certain aspects of JAVA language could be protected. This is adjunct to a prior ruling in the ongoing Google-Oracle legal squabble, which found that Java, the language Android is written in, is free to use. While this new ruling doesn’t necessarily overrule that one, it sets a very dangerous precedent moving forward.
To clarify, the ruling states that APIs — those things that make stuff work together — can be protected by patents and copyrights. Specific to this case are the “structure, sequence, and organization” of APIs, which the judge found to be something Oracle could defend. To recap: JAVA is free and clear, but the way APIs may be written and used is not.
This is substantial to Android because APIs are the thing that make apps special in many ways. Oracle (by virtue of Sun Microsystems) may have let the world use Java, as Google successfully argued a few years back, but the API is a touch different. An API touches on Oracle’s Virtual Machine and libraries. While Oracle lets you use them, they don’t let you copy them.
Google essentially recreated the library for use with Android, which is what’s at issue here. By recreating the libraries, Google effectively copied the “structure, sequence, and organization” Oracle had. Now that Oracle has argued Google infringed on their intellectual property, they’re free to pursue this case further.
The reason this is so damning is that APIs affect everything within Android. An API is, by definition, an Application Programming Interface, and defines how apps communicate and work with one another. The recent Play Services update should serve to show just how important APIs are — the update was nothing but APIs.
Some will say Oracle is out for blood, seeking a payday after purchasing Sun Microsystems. That might be true; Oracle may have purchased Sun thinking they could simply snag a piece of the Android pie and coast into a fortune. That’s entirely possible, even probable.
What’s also probable is that Google won’t let this die, and will defend it vigorously. The ruling is devastating, and sets a very intense legal precedent, but Google’s lawyers will likely argue the open source nature of Java. This is one ruling, but it’s like a marble pillar to Oracle’s case. Even if they lose the war, it’s possible they have emerged victorious in the largest and most important battle.
Source: Oracle v. Google ruling