A decade-old legal battle between Silicon Valley giants Oracle and Google over software rights moves to the Supreme Court Wednesday, in a case with enormous implications for copyright in the digital era.
The top court scheduled oral arguments in the case which dates back to a lawsuit filed in 2010 by Oracle seeking billions from Google over its use of Java programming language in its Android mobile operating system.
Two separate jury trials ended with a determination that Google’s “software interface” did not unfairly use Java code, saving the internet giant from a possible multibillion-dollar verdict.
But an appeals court in 2018 disagreed, saying the software interface is entitled to copyright protection, prompting Google to take the case to the highest US court.
Oracle, which in 2010 obtained the rights to Java when it acquired Sun Microsystems — which had supported Google’s use of Java for Android — sought $9 billion in damages in its original complaint.
Google and many Silicon Valley allies have argued that extending copyright protection to bits of code, called application programming interfaces, or APIs, would threaten innovation in the fast-evolving digital world.
According to Google, a win for Oracle would “upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing computer software interfaces to build new programs.”
The Developers Alliance, a nonprofit group which includes app makers and other tech firms, filed a supporting brief making a similar argument, arguing that “without shared APIs, every device and program is an island, and modern software development simply cannot happen.”
– The monopoly question –
The American Antitrust Institute argued in an amicus brief that allowing Oracle to maintain copyright protection “may slow innovation and competition in software-dependent markets,” and “may cement software-based monopolies.”
The hearing comes amid heightened scrutiny of large technology