On Monday, the Supreme Court denied certiorari in Google’s appeal of the Federal Circuit’s 2014 ruling that that the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of 37 Java API packages are entitled to copyright protection. (See Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc., 750 F.3d 1339 (Fed. Cir. 2014)). [A detailed discussion of the original lower court ruling can be found here.]
As we explained in a prior post, Google had argued that, contrary to the Federal Circuit’s interpretation, the Copyright Act excludes systems and methods of operations from copyright protection and that the appeals court “erased a fundamental boundary between patent and copyright law.” Tech law watchers were hoping that the Supreme Court might take the case to resolve this important copyright issue, something the court hasn’t examined since its 4-4 vote (Justice Stevens having recused himself) in the 1996 Borland case that affirmed the circuit court’s ruling regarding the copyrightability of a spreadsheet software’s hierarchy menu interface.
With the Supreme Court’s action, the case will be sent back to the district court in San Francisco to determine the viability of Google’s fair use defense.