Monday, July 28, 2014

Google preparing to appeal Oracle's copyright win to Supreme Court, Oct. 6 deadline for petition

Last month Google decided not to seek an en banc (full-court review) of Oracle's appellate victory in the high-profile Android-Java copyright case (initial reaction to ruling, follow-up, and detailed refresher Q&A), resulting in a formal mandate to the district court. At the time I wrote it was "still not certain that proceedings [would] resume in district court in the very short term," given that "Google [could] file[] a petition for writ of certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States." And that's what's apparently going to happen now (as always, absent a settlement).

On July 9, Google submitted to the Chief Justice of the United States an application to extend the time to file a petition for a writ of certiorari from August 7, 2014 (i.e., three months after the Federal Circuit opinion) to October 6, 2014. The Chief Justice granted the application the following day (July 10).

I have explained before (see the links further above) why I think the Federal Circuit got the copyrightability decision absolutely right. But Google and a number of Google-aligned individuals and organizations apparently can't accept the Federal Circuit decision as the last word. Whether the Supreme Court will ultimately hear the case is another question. A high-profile case it definitely is, and an important issue -- but the Federal Circuit, unlike the district judge, correctly interpreted the law (including the Ninth Circuit opinions in the Sega and Sony fair-use cases), and from a policy point of view, this outcome is in the interest of honest software developers seeking a reasonable degree of intellectual property protection for the most creative parts of their creations. Copyrightability is neither the only level at which interoperability can be ensured nor the best option because denying copyrightability to highly-creative, original, declaring API code would do way too much damage to software copyright. The best decision the Supreme Court will be able to make after Google files its petition is to deny certiorari in order for the case to resume in district court at the earliest opportunity.

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