WASHINGTON, Dec 4 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday closely questioned Google’s claim that Oracle does not enjoy copyright protection over certain parts of the Java programming language.
The issue, under review by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, is being closely watched by software developers in Silicon Valley.
Google’s Android operating system is the world’s best-selling smartphone platform. Oracle sued Google in 2010, claiming that Google had improperly incorporated parts of Oracle’s Java programming language into Android.
The case examined whether computer language that connects programs - known as application programming interfaces, or APIs - can be copyrighted.
In a trial last year in San Francisco, Oracle claimed Google’s Android tramples on its rights to the structure of 37 Java APIs. Oracle sought roughly $1 billion on its copyright claims.
Google argued that Oracle cannot copyright the structure of Java, an open-source or publicly available software language. U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the Java APIs replicated by Google were not subject to copyright protection and free for all to use.
Oracle appealed. At a hearing on Wednesday, Federal Circuit Judge Kathleen O‘Malley questioned whether Alsup’s ruling meant Google could similarly use APIs from companies like Apple or Microsoft.
“This would apply to every possible computer program out there,” O‘Malley said.
Google attorney Robert Van Nest said that was true, but that Google still cannot copy actual source code from competitors. Google spent over two years and millions of dollars writing source code for Android, Van Nest said.
“Fifteen million lines of Android source code were original,” Van Nest said.
The three judge panel did not say when it would issue a ruling.
The case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is Oracle America Inc vs. Google Inc., 13-1021.