Oracle has won an appeal in its four-year old legal battle with Google over the search giant's use of Java technology in its Android mobile operating system, in a development that could have ramifications for other software vendors.
On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruled that Oracle can copyright Java application programming interfaces (APIs), overturning a June 2012 court ruling that said Google's use of Java in Android did not violate Oracle's patents.
Google has argued that its use of Java in Android falls under fair use protections, but the jury was deadlocked on that particular point, according to the court documents in the case.
Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming that the use of Java in Android violated several Java patents, as well as copyrighted material related to the Java platform. Oracle acquired Java when it bought Sun Microsystems in January 2010. Oracle is seeking damages up to $1 billion in the case.
A Google spokesperson expressed displeasure with the latest court ruling in an emailed statement provided to CRN.
"We're disappointed by this ruling, which sets a damaging precedent for computer science and software development, and are considering our options," the spokesperson said in the statement.
Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley, in an emailed statement, said the vendor is "extremely pleased that the Federal Circuit denied Google's attempt to drastically limit copyright protection for computer code."
"The Federal Circuit's opinion is a win for Oracle and the entire software industry that relies on copyright protection to fuel innovation and ensure that developers are rewarded for their breakthroughs," Daley said in the statement.
University of California School Of Law Professor Pamela Samuelson told Reuters the court's ruling that APIs can be copyrighted is something software vendors will have to take into account when building apps.
"What we have is a decision that will definitely shake up the software industry," Samuelson told Reuters.
Florian Mueller, a German intellectual property expert and author of a popular blog on patent disputes, described today's court ruling as "extremely convincing" in a blog post.
"Google can, of course, try to appeal this case to the Supreme Court," Mueller said in the blog post. "But such a petition should be denied because the Federal Circuit ruling is absolutely consistent with Supreme Court law."