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Microsoft, EMC, NetApp support Oracle against Google

Grey ladies of tech hope to bend court's ear

Microsoft, EMC, and NetApp have joined Oracle in urging the US Federal Circuit Appeals Court to overturn an earlier decision in the landmark Oracle versus Google Java trial.

The three companies filed an amici curiae brief on Tuesday – legal-speak for "friends of the court." Such briefs are a way for parties not directly involved in litigation to let the court know they want their voice to be considered when it makes its decision.

The show of support follows Oracle imploring the appeals court to reverse an earlier decision in the company's multi-billion dollar case against ad-slinger Google, in a brief filed last Monday.

The amici curiae brief, a copy of which was sent to The Register, urges the court to reconsider its earlier ruling, which found that Oracle's 37 Java packages were devoid of copyright protection, clearing Google of most of the infringement claims Oracle had brought against it.

"The district court's holding that critical elements of the software platform at issue in this case are not copyrightable at all is the product of several significant errors of copyright law," the companies argued. "If allowed to stand, the district court's ruling would upset settled expectations and harm incentives for innovation in the software industry."

The court had ruled that Google had not infringed Oracle's copyrights because the search giant had mimicked certain Oracle APIs, rather than copying code outright.

"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," Judge Alsup wrote in the ruling that smacked down the bulk of Oracle's case.

Oracle took issue with this, claiming in its February 11 brief that Google's nonstandard implementation of Java APIs was the equivalent of "Ann Droid" writing a knock-off version of a Harry Potter book composed of short quotes from the original plus lots of paraphrasing. (No, we don't really understand this either – Ed)

In their brief, Microsoft, EMC, and NetApp implore the court to view the district court's copyright analysis as being fundamentally flawed, and to take another look at the case keeping various copyright principles in mind.

The companies note that all three of them have relied on copyright protection to develop and license their products, that they are all major licensees and licensors of copyrighted software, and that they also use open source software from time to time.

Perhaps to ward off claims that the companies are "pro-copyright and anti-open source," the document notes that all three "have a longstanding strategic interest in preserving room for legitimate reverse-engineering, competitive analysis, and innovative follow-on development of existing software."

Other amici curiae​ briefs in support of Oracle have been filed by Scott McNealy and Brian Sutphine; The Picture Archive Council of America and the Graphic Artists Guild; Eugene Spafford, Zi Ding and Lee A. Hollar; and the Business Software Alliance. The full texts of these briefs were not available as of this filing.

Google is expected to file its own brief in response to Oracle's filing on by March 28. ®

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