Since its founding in 1982, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, aka “The Patent Court” has been a morass of sloppy patent maximalist jurisprudence.
This is why the Supreme Court has been routinely overturning their rulings over the past few years.
Whenever the Supreme Court agrees to review a case from the patent court, there is some sort of reversal in the works, and likely a significant amount of shade thrown at back at the court.
Now SCOTUS will review one of the worst opinions of the Patent Court, Google v. Oracle, where it was determined that programming interfaces (APIs) were subject to copyright, which has the effect of making program interoperability unlawful:
Some big news out of the Supreme Court this morning, as it has agreed to hear the appeal in the never-ending Oracle v. Google lawsuit regarding whether or not copyright applies to APIs (the case is now captioned as Google v. Oracle, since it was Google asking the Supreme Court to hear the appeal). We’ve been covering the case and all its permutations for many years now, and it’s notable that the Supreme Court is going to consider both of the questions that Google petitioned over. Specifically:
- Whether copyright protection extends to a software interface.
- Whether, as the jury found, petitioner’s use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use.
To me, as I always point out in this case, the key element will be getting the Supreme Court to recognize that an API is not software. Oracle and its supporters keep trying to insist that an API and executable code are one and the same, and I worry that the Supreme Court will not fully understand the differences, though I am sure that there will be compelling amici briefs trying to explain this point to them.
It’s clear that SCOTUS is looking to slap down the patent court again.
If you are not sure what a API is, it is a set of specifications that describe how programs talk with each other.
For example, if you wanted the square route of a number, you might do it by sqrt(#) or [#]squareroute.
They both mean exactly the same thing, but one will work with a program, and the other won’t.
Essentially, Oracle is claiming copyright of program compatibility, and the patent court swallowed it hook line and sinker.