This morning the Supreme Court issued an order indicating that it was declining to hear an appeal of the copyright case between Oracle and Google. The appeal concerned the copyrightability of “application programming interfaces” (APIs). Oracle launched the suit against Google shortly after acquiring Sun, which held copyrights and patents on the Java computer language, in 2010. It claimed that Android infringed Java copyrights because Android replicated elements of the Java API in the Android API. (Oracle’s suit also advanced patent claims, which came up remarkably short.)
The trial court sided with Google, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit disagreed, in a May 2014 ruling discussed previously here, here, and here. Google appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the appellate court had incorrectly held that the system and methods of the Java API could be protected under U.S. copyright law. The U.S. Copyright Act withholds protection from any idea, procedure, process, system, or method of operation. Processes, systems, and methods are usually the domain of patent law, not copyright; courts have long noted the lack of copyright protection for interface specifications encourages interoperability across software environments.