Timeline of Oracle v. Google and the docket files

(This is an ongoing case and therefore this post will be updated along with the development.)

Issue: whether Oracle can claim a copyright on Java APIs and, if so, whether Google infringes these copyrights.

In order to allow developers to write their own programs for Android, Google’s implementation used the same names, organization, and functionality as the Java APIs.

May 2012, Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California ruled that APIs are not subject to copyright: where “there is only one way to declare a given method functionality, [so that] everyone using that function must write that specific line of code in the same way,”

Oracle appealed to the ninth circuit. The circuit ruled in favor of Oracle in May 2014, finding that the Java APIs are copyrightable, but leaving open the possibility that Google might have a fair use defense.

Google filed a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court seeking review (on the issue of whether API is copyrightable) but failed. The case returned to the district court for trial.

In May 2016, a jury unanimously agreed that Google’s use of the Java APIs was fair use. Oracle appealed.

In March 2018, the Federal Circuit reversed the district court. The Court rejected the jury’s verdict (after previously saying that the jury had to decide the case) and held that Google’s use was not fair use as a matter of law. Google appealed to the Supreme Court.

This time the SC granted the cert. Oral argument is expected in March 2020, and a decision by June.

Documents in Docket:

Supreme Court (2020)

Oracle Brief (February 12, 2020)

Google Opening Brief (January 6, 2020)

Amicus Briefs

In support of Respondent

In support of Neither Party

In support of Petitioner

Cert Petition (2019)

Solicitor General Brief (Sept. 27, 2019)

Google Reply Brief (April 10, 2019)

Oracle Response in Opposition (Mar. 27, 2019)

Google Petition for Writ of Certiorari (Feb. 25, 2019)

Amicus Briefs

In support of Petitioner

Federal Circuit (2018)

Google’s petition for rehearing en banc (May 29, 2018)

Federal Circuit Decision (March 27, 2018)

Amicus Briefs

In Support of Oracle

In Support of Google

Federal Circuit (2014)

Federal Circuit Decision (May 9, 2014)

Remand

NDCA Order Denying Rule 50 Motions (June 8, 2016)

NDCA Jury Verdict (May 26, 2016)

Google’s License renewed, and ISP Liability Released

The game of “Spoting the Difference” starts again!

Google’s ICP license renewed. See the captured today’s Google.cn web page below (left), and compare it with the page in last week (right).

Google.cn on 9 July 2010:
Google.cn on 4 July 2010:

Exactly as what I predicted few days ago, Google is trying to make Google.cn being a non-search engine website. It now places “Music”, “Translation” and “Shopping” at the web page. These are what Google wishes to keep on running in China. While the search engine service of Google.cn is replaced by a link to google.com.hk. Legally speaking, Google.cn is not providing search engine service currently. It is merely a link to another website. Just like the links added in any of our own web posts.

Interestingly, please pay attention to those minor changes. It seems Google’s lawyers are demonstrating their legal skills. For example, in the 4 July version, it says “we have moved to (我们已经移至) google.com.hk”, while in current page, “we have moved to” has been moved. Why? I assume the reason might be: The sentence “WE have moved to” acknowledged that the one who runs “google.com.hk” is identically the same one who runs “google.cn”. In that circumstance, Google.cn would still be critisized by Chinee authority on providing searching results including “illegal” materials. Without such sentence, when it is accused by the government, Google China may say that it is an independent legal entity who is distinctive from the operator of google.com.hk.

Besides the censorship topic. Let’s discuss something about intellectual property law (this might be more interesting): Is there any difference between providing a link to a search engine and providing a search engine service per se?

Yes, of course.

When you place a link to a web page. You will not be a service provider, therefore you will not be liable for the copyright/trademark infringement even when the linked page is full of infringing materials. If a right owner wants your money, he/she at least has to send you a notice saying “hey! The web page you are linking is full of my proprietary stuff. Please move that hyperlink!” After you recieved such letter, in China, you may have to remove the link if there is really infringing contents at the web page you are linking to. However, now in the Google’s circumstance, this will no be a problem because google.cn is linking to google.com.hk, which is owned by google.cn’s parent company.

In short, by replacing search box with a hyperlink to google.com.hk, Google.cn may escape from being accused for vicarious liability, which is by far a “killing application” of the intellectual property holders in this era of the Cambrian explosion of the Internet.