Yesterday, the district court in the Oracle America v. Google copyright litigation over the Android application program interfaces (APIs) denied Oracle’s motion for a new trial and renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law. The jury’s decision that fair use permitted Google’s copying of elements of the Java API in the Android API thus is ripe for review in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC).
The district court denied Oracle’s renewed motion for judgment as a matter of law in one sentence, “for the same reasons as its old one.” The court’s denial of Oracle’s earlier motion for judgment a matter of law is discussed here.
With respect to the motion for a new trial, the district court first responded to Oracle’s contention that it had abused its discretion by limiting the fair use trial to “Android as used in smartphones and tablets, postponing all other uses to later trials.” The court observed that the original trial in 2010 covered Android versions used in smartphones and tablets, and that these versions were within the scope of the appeal and the remand. Once it was back before the district court, Oracle had sought to broaden the case to include later versions of Android used on other devices, including laptops and desktops. Google, however, disputed whether the earlier finding of infringement applied to these later versions of Android. Thus, including them in the second trial would require Oracle proving that these versions, too, infringed its copyright in Java.
Further, the court found that the fair use analysis with respect to the laptop and desktop versions was distinct from that concerning the smartphone and tablet versions. Oracle argued that because the fourth fair use factor considered whether widespread conduct of the sort engaged in by the defendant would have an adverse impact on the market for the original, the potential harm to the laptop and desktop markets was relevant to the fair use determination. The court responded that
the concern with widespread use, however, is not whether uses distinct from the accused uses—each of which must be subject to distinct transformativeness analyses—might harm the market for the copyrighted works. Rather, the concern is whether a use of the same sort, if multiplied via use by others, would cause market harm, even though the actual use by the infringer caused only minimal harm.