It’s a “hot button intellectual property dispute” and called the “biggest IP case awaiting high court direction.” Indeed, the disagreement between Google and Oracle over whether application programming interfaces (APIs) are able to be copyrighted is not only making headlines, but may have intense implications for the future of technology development, as any technology patent litigation attorney following the case would know. When it comes down to it, though, we wonder just how much influence does the Justice Department have in the Supreme Court Case?
A savvy tech patent litigation attorney knows that it’s only part of the picture, but an important piece nonetheless. The lawsuit stems out of competition—as most do—and Google’s assertion that parts of the Java code that goes into Android operating systems is “a method of operation” that “allows programs to communicate with one another” is one that many computer scientists happen to agree with. But apparently according to the White House Administration, “that argument is incorrect.”
What computer scientists see as the crux of the issue is the way in which copyright protection for this type of code could stagnate development in the technology industry. It would diminish the ability to grow that has previously “enabled the American computer industry to flourish and choke off many of the system’s benefits to consumers.” But apparently the government disagrees, and has sided squarely with Oracle, who insists that the decision “affirms the importance of copyright protection as an incentive for software innovation.”
You don’t have to be a patent litigation attorney entrenched in the statutes of “fair use” and circuit court decisions to get the feeling that at the bottom of this debate is the issue of innovation and stagnation, with both sides claiming that their way is the path onwards and upwards. But as consumers, what do we think?
How much do we care about different web browsers beyond a brief brand-loyalty to Chrome, IE, Firefox, or Opera? How often do we celebrate how are email contacts sync with our phones’, or lament how paralyzed are we by the inability for iPhones to interface with Android for some certain tasks. My Pinterest app isn’t official and doesn’t function well on my Windows phone. Is living my life in the way I want significantly inhibited?
Maybe it is, for some. And although that’s the bottom line of which both Oracle and Google are trying to convince both the media and the Supreme Court, it’s really not what’s at stake here at all, something a patent litigation attorney knows. Seeing through the rhetoric and analyzing the legal intricacies is difficult, and what we’ve discovered about this case is that much of these disputes, like what constitutes “fair use,” (or the ability for Google to use portions of Oracle’s code without worrying about copyrights) and “what is infringement in a particular case will not always be easily defined.” Without a clear definition, what we have is a muddy, case-by-case situation that will almost always, we guarantee, be argued.