Here’s the latest.

Supreme Court Backs Google in Copyright Fight With Oracle

Reported By Adam Liptak for the New York Times

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court issued a landmark copyright decision, holding that Google was protected by the “fair use” exception to copyright protections when it used Oracle’s Java programming code in its Android operating system. Oracle acquired Java in 2010 from Sun Microsystems and argued that use of the system without permission amounted to copyright infringement. In a 6-2 decision, the Supreme Court overturned a unanimous three-judge Federal Circuit panel that found that there was “nothing fair about taking a copyrighted work verbatim and using it for the same purpose and function as the original in a competing platform.” Google petitioned the Supreme Court, which agreed to answer two questions. The first was whether the lines of code were copyrightable, and if so, whether Google’s use was protected under the fair-use exception. In Justice Breyer’s majority opinion, he only answered the second question. In dissent, Justice Thomas, joined by Justice Alito, criticized the majority’s failure to address the first question and added that he would have found that the code was protected by copyright law.

The majority’s approach was inexplicable, Justice Thomas wrote, and its rationale — that technology is rapidly changing — was odd, as change “has been a constant where computers are concerned.”

Justice Breyer asserted that the four fair-use factors set out in the Copyright Act all supported Google. According to Liptak, Justice Thomas found that Google had justified theft in the name of convenience.

“A Broadway musical script needs actors and singers to invest time learning and rehearsing it,” he wrote. “But a theater cannot copy a script — the rights to which are held by a smaller theater — simply because it wants to entice actors to switch theaters and because copying the script is more efficient than requiring the actors to learn a new one.”

For more on this case, see our coverage.

Apple Can’t Appeal Patent Board Rulings After Qualcomm Deal

Reported By Perry Cooper on Bloomberg Law

The Federal Circuit ruled that a 2019 global settlement between Apple and Qualcomm bars Apple from challenging patent office decisions upholding two Qualcomm patents. In a precedential decision, the Federal Circuit held that without parallel litigation Apple fails to establish a concrete injury if the patents remain valid. Qualcomm initially sued Apple for infringement with regards to technology in the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board previously upheld Qualcomm’s patents after Apple failed to prove that the patents were invalid as obvious in light of existing inventions. Before Apple appealed the board’s decision, Qualcomm and Apple reached a settlement agreement. According to Perry Cooper, the settlement included a six-year license agreement covering tens of thousands of patents, including to two patents at issue here. Apple appealed the PTAB decisions after the parties had already settled.

The Federal Circuit rejected Apple’s argument that it has standing because its ongoing payment obligations are a condition for certain rights in the license agreement.

Additionally, the Federal Circuit dismissed Apple’s argument that it has standing due to the possibility of suit after the settlement agreement expires in 2025 or 2027.

Fitbit Wins Challenge to Health Technology Patent at Tribunal

Reported By Matthew Bultman on Bloomberg Law

After the Federal Circuit found problems with the Patent Trial and Appeal Board’s original review and sent the case back down, the PTAB concluded on Monday that a health-monitoring patent claims are invalid as obvious based on prior art. In its original decision, the PTAB rejected Fitbit’s interpretation of a claim. Matthew Bultman notes that the board thought this ended Fitbit’s challenge to that claim. The Federal Circuit, on the other hand, ruled that the board also needed to analyze patentability.

The appeals court also said the PTAB was wrong when it found it couldn’t determine the meaning of two other claims due to a mistake in how the claims were numbered. The court said that using the mistake as the basis of upholding the claims was “not a reasonable resolution.”

The PTAB found each of the claims invalid on remand.