This blog post was prompted by the Supreme Court’s recent denial in hearing the case of Oracle vs. Google with regards to Google copyrighting APIs and infringing on Oracle’s Java intellectual property. This case brings up the following important question: Are APIs part of a developer’s unalienable rights?
History of APIs
APIs have existing for long time. One of the earliest adopters of public APIs was IBM through its CORBA standard. It was only the advent of the web API, however, that allowed for developers to contribute to a product. Kin Lane, the API Evangelist has done a great job of tracing the history of the web API, noting some companies that you might have heard of.
Next stop: The human genome
Today’s API economy has been vital for the success of all types of firms across many industries in the field of technology. In fact, all industries have become reliant on the developer community through the use of APIs. Modern-day evangelists (thank you, Guy Kawasaki) are responsible for promoting a vendor’s cause and having developers build against the vendor’s platform and/or ecosystem. For all you tech heads, APIs are everywhere. There’s even talk that scientists may develop an API for a human’s genetic code.
What does an API do?
The API legal battle
Here’s the court case history leading up to this summer’s ruling: Oracle sued Google in 2010, alleging that Google’s use of 37 Java APIs in its Android mobile operating system constituted patent and copyright infringement. Google argued that it was and should be free to use those APIs because the Java programming language itself is free to use and the APIs are required in order use the language. In May of 2012, the jury of a district-level US court found that Google, in the development of its Android operating system, did not infringe on Oracle’s Java-related patents. The trial judge also ruled that the “structure, sequence, and organization” of the Java APIs was not copyrightable. Advantage: APIs for the masses. In 2014, Oracle appealed to a Federal Circuit court, which partially reversed the district-level court’s decision, ruling in favor of Oracle on the copyright issue. Advantage: Oracle, patent holders, and all originators of technology. Finally, the Supreme Court’s recent June 2015 denial to hear the case of Oracle vs. Google and return the case to the lower-level courts led to the current API stalemate. Where should the line be drawn and what constitutes intellectual property? Where would Linux be if it wasn’t for the developer community? We at Go2Group will watch what develops with eagerness. Our ConnectALL platform allows for developers to build their own adapters by giving access to our API. In short, we are exposing our API for all to use. In our previous plugin integrations, we had to create our own API services. ConnectALL, however, only uses remote APIs. In fact, our REST API has to be public so that an external script can push the requested data from any integrated ALM application to ConnectALL to synchronize data.
Doug Bass is a certified Atlassian consultant and trainer and a certified ScrumMaster. He is an experienced systems architect with experience in distributed application design, database architecture, network design, and project management. Author of the first relational database for military applications in the UK and the first java-internet based chat application, Doug teaches classes in object-oriented design. He holds a Masters Degree in Information Architecture. He is a consulting partner for Atlassian’s product suite, and architect of several of Go2Group’s products including the CRM Plugin (JIRA and Salesforce integration), JIRA/Perforce plugin, and ConnectALL (a multi-application synchronization solution). Doug contributes his free time to the United States Power Squadron where he teaches classes on safe boating.