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So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.
The recent verdict against Oracle in its patent case against Google over Java use in Android is good news for the Linux community – and in more ways than one, according to Keith Bergelt, CEO of the Open Invention Network (OIN).The OIN was set up in 2005 to build a defensive patent-portfolio pot that could be shared royalty-free by participants, and which could be used to ward off patent trolls and aggressive litigation against Linux. Companies such as Red Hat, Google, and IBM have put money into the venture as a way of safeguarding themselves and promoting open source code.Last week's verdict set an encouraging precedent, Bergelt told The Register."It's a heartening sign the judge was very analytical and it wasn't a passive case of not making a decision," he said. "It was an affirmative decision which we should take as a positive signal to the community."Given that both Oracle and Google are members of the OIN, one might wonder how they ended up in court at all. But with issues that don’t directly affect the kernel, it wasn't in the OIN's remit to get involved, Bergelt explained. The Java case was about separate technologies from Linux, although that didn't stop Google from draping itself in the open source mantle for the case.