Supreme Court Rules for Google In Long-Standing Copyright Dispute

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In a dispute that underscores the importance of protecting your business’s rights in its intellectual property, the U.S. Supreme Court on April 5 found that Google’s use of a small part of Oracle’s Java programming for its Android mobile operating system was considered “fair use” under US copyright law. The court only decided the issue of fair use and did not reach the question of whether the code at issue was actually entitled to copyright protection. 

Oracle sued Google in 2010 for as much as $9 billion in damages, accusing Google of copying about 11,000 lines of code (about .4% of the total). The court said that Google’s use of the code was “a fair use as a matter of law” because “Google reimplemented a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow users to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program.”

All companies should understand the fair use exception to the exclusive rights held by the copyright owner so that they can effectively evaluate whether another company’s use of their intellectual property constitutes fair use or should be challenged in court.

The Fair Use Exception

The fair use exception is part of the copyright law of many countries, including the US and UK. The exception states that if someone uses copyrighted material in a way that constitutes fair use, such use is not an infringement they aren’t required to obtain a license. Examples of fair use of a copyrighted work, which is judged on a case-by-case basis, include:

– Educational purposes, such as teaching and student research

– Making commentary and criticism as part of a news report or published article

– Parody (ridiculing a well-known work by imitating it for comedic purposes)

– Quoting a few lines from a song in a music review

– Summarizing and quoting from an article in a TV news report

– Copying a few paragraphs from an article for use by a teacher or student

What to Do If Someone Is Infringing Your Copyright

If you believe someone is infringing one of your copyrights because neither fair use nor any other exception applies, the first thing you should do is consult an experienced intellectual property attorney like Timothy Coons. An attorney will help you conduct the extensive fact-based analysis that is required to determine how you can protect your rights, as well as any defenses that the alleged infringer could raise. That said, your options generally include:

Writing a Demand Letter

This is the first step, as well as the most inexpensive. In this letter, which your attorney can draft, you inform the alleged infringer of your position, including your claim of right to the copyright. You also provide the basis for asking the alleged infringer to stop the potentially infringing action, as well as state the potential liabilities that the alleged infringer could face if they ignore your request to cease and desist. 

A demand letter could prompt the alleged infringer to stop what they are doing. Alternatively, it could lead to a licensing deal or another opportunity to monetize your intellectual property.   

Legal Action

If the potential infringer fails to comply with the demand letter, it could be time to consider litigation. The type(s) of legal action you can take will depend on the circumstances – in particular, whether you registered your copyright. The potential damages and the owner’s availability of venue also depend on whether you have registered your copyright. Again, because litigation issues are complex, you should consult an experienced intellectual property attorney before initiating legal action to ensure that your rights are protected.

Contact Counxel Legal Firm

Do you need help with a trademark or copyright? If so, that can be one of the most exciting times in a person’s life!

We both file and litigate copyrights and trademarks. This gives us a unique perspective on how to best help our clients get the most out of their intellectual property. 

What’s even better, we offer flat-rate pricing on our trademark and copyright applications which allows you to stop worrying about the cost of protecting your brands or ideas and to focus on all of the exciting things that you can do with them.

Please contact us at (480) 744-6621 or at request@counxel.com. Don’t forget to check out the good things that others are saying about the services they received from Timothy Coons on Google.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for your specific situation. Use of and access to this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Counxel Legal Firm. Please contact request@counxel.com or (480) 744-6621 to request specific information for your situation.

*Conveniently located off the 101 Freeway and the US 60 in the middle of Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Queen Creek!

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