Google has admitted it copied over 11,000 lines of Oracle’s creative Java code to build its Android smartphone platform, that it makes commercial use of the code it copied, and that it uses the code for the same purpose as Oracle and those who license its products. Now, Google wants the Supreme Court to hold that this is fair use under American copyright law. Stripping away the diversions that Google and its amici offer the Court, these are the core facts which show how extreme Google’s invocation of fair use in this case truly is…. As the October 7 oral argument date nears in Google v. Oracle, I’d like to build on the fair use discussion by Washington, D.C. attorney Terry Campo published in August to further analyze Google’s claims of fair use to excuse its copying. The company’s claims aren’t just insufficient, they’re undermined by Google’s own arguments.
On June 2, the European Commission launched a far-reaching consultation as part of its examination of a forthcoming Digital Services Act (DSA), aimed at identifying areas where new rules at the European level might advance the interests of European societies. Part of that examination was specifically aimed at considering the application of ex ante regulation of dominant platforms. To this end, the impact assessment will examine different policy options for the effective ex ante regulatory framework that ensures that online platform ecosystems controlled by large online platforms that benefit from significant network effects remain fair and contestable, in particular in situations where such platforms may act as gatekeepers. I do not intend to address the framing of the consultation here, nor to discuss the potential relative merits and/or drawbacks of ex ante regulations in this area. Perhaps another day. For the moment, I just want to focus on Google’s fascinating response to this request for comments.
In two months, the Supreme Court will hear the oral argument in the long-running Google v. Oracle software copyright case. At issue is the availability of copyright protection for computer programs and in particular the copyright protection of code in Oracle’s Java platform, which Google admits it copied for its Android operating system without obtaining a license. Google also claims its commercial use of that code in competition with Oracle is protected under copyright law’s fair use doctrine, but that is a subject for another day. If adopted by the Supreme Court, Google’s arguments would undermine the Constitutional purposes and specific Congressional intent in enacting the Copyright Act, and along with them the fundamental incentives for new creative expression in software, a building block of so many consumer and industrial products. To better understand how, it helps to start at the beginning: Apple’s groundbreaking release of the iPhone.
Part I of this article provided an overview of the Federal Circuit’s understanding of the patent venue statute after the Supreme Court’s decision in TC Heartland, and especially the meaning of In re: Google LLC, 949 F.3 1338 (Fed. Cir. 2020) (“SIT”) in this analysis. Part II of the article will address the impact that “machines” may be considered a factor in the analysis of whether venue in a patent infringement can be asserted in a particular location, as raised by the court in Personalized Media Communications LLC v. Google, Netflix, 2:19-CV-00090-JRG (Lead Case). As more and more companies move at least part of their operations online, especially now in response to the COVID-19 crisis, companies, as part of this process, should consider whether this will increase the chances that they will be sued in a district that they regard as unfavorable.
The Court believed the time was now appropriate to address this issue through a writ of mandamus noting that several similar cases had now been heard in various district courts with conflicting results. The Court identified two issues that should be addressed: (1) whether a server rack, a shelf, or analogous space can be a “place of business,” and (2) whether a “regular and established place of business” requires the regular presence of an employee or agent of the defendant conducting business. Finding that a defendant must have regular, physical presence of an employee or other agent of the defendant conducting the defendant’s business at the alleged “place of business,” the Court concluded that the Eastern District of Texas was not a proper venue for this case because Google does not have an employee or agent regularly conducting its business within the District.
On February 21, the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) issued a pair of institution-phase decisions in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings petitioned by Internet tech giant Google, both of which challenge claims of a patent owned by Virentem Ventures and asserted in a District of Delaware infringement case against Google subsidiary YouTube. Although the PTAB denied institution to one of the IPRs, institution of the other Google IPR threatens each patent claim that has been asserted against variable speed audio/video playback services enabled by YouTube and Google products. With the IPR proceeding instituted, Virentem Ventures is now facing IPR proceedings instituted upon six of its patents asserted against Google in Delaware.
In the latest stage of the Supreme Court battle between Oracle America, Inc. (Oracle) and Google, Oracle filed its opening brief with the Court on February 12. Google’s petition for a writ of certiorari was granted in November 2019 and asks the Court to consider: “1. Whether copyright protection extends to a software interface” and “2. Whether, as the jury found, petitioner’s use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use.” The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) previously unanimously reversed a district court decision that held Oracle’s code as uncopyrightable, finding it well established that copyright protection for software programs can extend to both code and their structure or organization. Oracle is suing Google for $8.8 billion in lost revenue.
On January 30, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) affirmed the Patent Trial and Appeals Board’s (PTAB) decision rendering claims 1-11 of U.S. Patent No. 7,529,806 (the ‘806 patent) obvious. The ‘806 patent, owned by Koninklijke Philips (Philips) is directed toward improved playback of digital content on a client device through reducing delay. The patent covers a method for forming media presentations using a control information file that does two things: (a) provides the media presentation in various alternative formats, allowing a client device’s media player to “choose the format compatible with the client’s play-out capabilities” opposed to using two way intelligence between the client and server software; and (b) provides the presentation in multiple files so that subsequent files download at the same time as files are played back.
On January 6, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) reversed the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s (PTAB) decision that Google failed to prove Koninklijke Philips’ (Philips) U.S. Patent No. RE44,913 (the ‘913 patent) obvious. The patent describes a method for entering primary and secondary characters on the keypad of a device such as a handheld mobile device. After Philips sued Acer, Inc. and other companies for infringement based on devices that use Google operating systems, Google petitioned the PTAB for inter partes review (IPR) of the ‘913 patent and the board found for Philips. Google appealed the Board’s decision to the CAFC, which held that the Philips invention would have been obvious in light of the prior art.
This week in Other Barks & Bites: the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments over copyright status of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated; the Federal Circuit remands Ericsson appeal to calculate release payment in patent license; Apple, Ford and others urge the USPTO to retain policy against injunctions on companies practicing SEPs; Huawei asks the Fifth Circuit to undo the FCC’s ban preventing it from supplying U.S. networks; Sergey Brin and Larry Page relinquish executive duties at Google; U.S. antitrust regulators explore Amazon’s cloud business; Washington politicians send letter to ALI over Copyright Restatement Effort concerns; and Qualcomm challenges Judge Koh’s class action certification at the Ninth Circuit.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Google’s petition for a writ of certiorari in its long-running case with Oracle. The High Court will decide: 1. Whether copyright protection extends to a software interface; and 2) Whether Google’s use of a software interface in the context of creating a new computer program constitutes fair use. In March 2018, the Federal Circuit issued its opinion in favor of Oracle in the case. See Oracle America, Inc. v. Google LLC. The Court found Google’s use of Java application programming interface (‘API packages’) not fair as a matter of law, reversing the district court’s decision on the matter. The ruling resurrected a multi-billion dollar copyright case brought by Oracle Corp against Google and was appealed to the Supreme Court in January 2019, after the Federal Circuit denied rehearing in August 2018. In a press release issued the same day Google filed its petition, Oracle dismissed Google’s move as “a rehash of arguments that have already been thoughtfully and thoroughly discredited” and said that Google’s “fabricated concern about innovation hides Google’s true concern: that it be allowed the unfettered ability to copy the original and valuable work of others as a matter of its own convenience and for substantial financial gain.”
The House Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial, and Administrative Law yesterday heard from Joseph Simons, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, and Makan Delrahim, Assistant Attorney General in the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division as part of the Subcommittee’s fourth hearing in its “Online Platforms and Market Power” series. The latest hearing focused on the perspectives of the antitrust authorities, while previous hearings have examined the effects of the big tech companies on innovation and entrepreneurship; online platforms’ effect on a free and diverse press; and the role of data and privacy in competition. While both Delrahim and Simons said they are aggressively investigating and monitoring dominant platforms like Facebook and Google, they warned against overreach. Subcommittee Chair David Cicilline (D-RI) expressed his concern that, over the past decade, the largest tech firms have acquired more than 436 companies, “many of which were actual or potential competitors,” without intervention from antitrust enforcement authorities. The last major monopolization case was brought in 2001 against Microsoft, Cicilline noted. “This has created a de facto antitrust exemption for online platforms.,” he said, questioning whether the failure lies in the need for congressional action to amend and strengthen existing laws, a lack of agency resources to effectively combat the problem, or simply a lack of will to enforce the laws on the books.
This week in tech and innovation hearings in Washington, D.C., the U.S. House of Representatives gets underway on Wednesday by exploring rulemaking at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), regulating online platforms through antitrust law, preparing the medical workforce for innovation and checking the progress of NASA’s plans to put American astronauts on the Moon and Mars. Later in the week, House committees focus on innovation in water and geothermal energy as well as the impact of big tech on small businesses across America. Over in the Senate, the Senate Environment Committee holds a hearing to look at expanding commercial nuclear power and the Senate Commerce Committee will mark up various pieces of legislation, including one bill that would reauthorize compulsory licenses for satellite broadcasts under STELAR despite Copyright Office opposition to such reauthorization. Elsewhere in D.C., The Brookings Institution holds an event today to discuss potential biases that can develop through the use of algorithms in AI technologies.
This week in our nation’s capital, the U.S. Senate is the lone house of Congress that will host hearings on tech and innovation topics. On Tuesday, Senate subcommittees will explore national security concerns related to big tech use of user data along with NASA’s efforts to improve the STEM workforce. On Wednesday, a few legislative hearings will commence to look at bills related to government AI, cybersecurity and geothermal innovation, among other tech subjects. Elsewhere in D.C., the Center for International and Strategic Studies explores the future of the electrical grid and China’s efforts towards techno-governance.
This week in Other Barks & Bites: the Federal Circuit hands out three precedential decisions; the USPTO sends its SUCCESS Act Report to Congress; the Copyright Royalty Board proposes royalty rates on ephemeral recordings for certain Internet transmissions; China unveils legislation to create a public blacklist for patent offenders; the Ninth Circuit revives a copyright case against Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”; Google agrees to buy Fitbit for $2.1 billion; and the USPTO seeks public comments on the type of IP protections that should be extended to inventions developed by AI technology.