Summary: Application programming interfaces (APIs) are copyrightable.

Case: Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc., No. 2013-1021, -1022 (Fed. Cir. May 9, 2014) (precedential). On appeal from N.D.Cal. Before O’Malley, Plager, and Taranto.

Procedural Posture: Copyright holder Oracle appealed final judgment in favor of Google for noninfringement, except for copyrighted computer routine “rangeCheck” and eight decompiled files. Google cross-appealed judgment of infringement of “rangeCheck” and decompiled files. CAFC affirmed-in-part, reversed-in-part, and remanded.

  • Copyrightability of Source Code: District court erred in determining that the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of API packages were not subject to copyright protection, reinstating jury’s infringement finding of Oracle’s 37 Java packages. Jury deadlocked on Google’s fair use defense, and case was remanded for further consideration of this issue. District court correctly granted Oracle’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law for copying decompiled files into Android, and denied Google’s motion for a judgment as a matter of law related to the “rangeCheck” function.
  • Copyrightability of Source Code: District court erred in concluding that the declaring code was not copyrightable under the merger doctrine. As Oracle had unlimited options as to the selection and arrangement of the 7,000 lines Google copied, alternative expressions were available, and there was no merger.
  • Fair Use: Fair use defense is a mixed question of fact and law, and there existed insufficient factual findings to review; remanded to district court.
  • Copyrightability of Source Code: District court correctly determined that Google’s copying of “rangeCheck” was not de minimis, as there is not a minimum number of lines of code that must be copied before a court can find infringement.