APIs and Sheep

On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued several decisions on intellectual property, including Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc. on copyright in APIs and In RE Roslin Institute on the patentability of Dolly the Sheep.

Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc. – APIs (PDF)

Oracle had sued Google on the use of the Java APIs in the Android operating system. The lower court held that the Java programming language APIs were not copyrightable. On appeal the CAFC reversed stating, that the “declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection”. The proceeding was remanded because the jury had deadlocked in the issue of fair use.

In one section, the appeals court disagreed with the lower court’s application of the merger doctrine saying, “It is well-established that copyrightability and the scope of protectable activity are to be evaluated at the time of creation, not at the time of infringement.”

There is significant commentary on this decision already. For a sample, here is commentary from the EFF and FOSS Patents.

In RE Roslin – Dolly (PDF)

The CAFC considered the patentability under Section 101 of claims to actual cloned animals, of which the following representative claims (of US Application No. 09/225,233). A separate patent on the method of cloning was not at issue.

155. A live-born clone of a pre-existing, non-embryonic, donor mammal, wherein the mammal is selected from cattle, sheep, pigs, and goats.
164. The clone of any of claims 155-159, wherein the donor mammal is non-foetal.

 The Court held that the claims were not directed to patentable subject matter:

While Roslin does not dispute that the donor sheep whose genetic material was used to create Dolly could not be patented, Roslin contends that copies (clones) are eligible for protection because they are “the product of human ingenuity” and “not nature’s handiwork, but [their] own.” Appellant’s Br. 17, 18. Roslin argues that such copies are either compositions of matter or manufactures within the scope of § 101. However, Dolly herself is an exact genetic replica of another sheep and does not possess “markedly different characteristics from any [farm animals] found in nature.”

For some commentary on the decision, here are links to IP Watchdog, Bloomberg, WSJ and National Law Review.