The US Supreme Court handed Google victory in a court battle spanning more than a decade, ruling the technology giant did not violate copyright infringement laws when using parts of Oracle’s software code to develop its Android operating system.
Oracle launched its action in 2010, focusing on the definition of fair use of Java code and whether Google’s application of it infringed copyright. The software company sought nearly $9 billion in damages.
The Supreme Court weighed into the case in October 2020: in a majority decision, it ruled Google was covered by legal fair use copyright protections involving around 11,500 lines of Oracle code employed to ensure Android was compatible with Java software, which is now owned by Oracle.
In statement, the court explained allowing enforcement of Oracle’s copyright “would risk harm to the public”, noting the costs and difficulties of producing alternative APIs.
It added many programmers had knowledge of Oracle’s building blocks and a favourable ruling for the company in the case would act as a lock “limiting the future creativity of new programmes”.
“Oracle alone would hold the key.”
Dorian Daley, EVP and general counsel at Oracle hit out at the decision: “The Google platform just got bigger and market power greater, the barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower.”
“They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can. This behaviour is exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the US are examining Google’s business practices.”
Google’s Supreme Court win comes after split decisions over the case. A verdict favoured Google in 2016, and another sided with Oracle in 2018.