Google will go into next year facing a Supreme Court showdown with Oracle, a long-time competitor that alleges the Internet giant took code that was copyrighted by the company for use in its Android smartphones.
The case revolves around Java, a computer programming language developed by Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle in 2009. Google attempted to obtain a license from Sun, but negotiations broke down after Google failed to offer a guarantee that its version of the language would be inter-operable with other versions.
According to the lawsuit, Google then obtained 11,500 lines of Java code from an open-source project run by the Apache Software Foundation. However, this was not an officially licensed Java implementation.
Software code is subject to copyright laws, which means that Sun — and by extension, Oracle — controls the code associated with Java.
While Oracle did make this code available for free to app developers, it has always maintained that large corporations that ran competing platforms (like Google!) ought to pay for it.
Google did not pay for it, and the software it developed with the help of Java, Android, now represents over 87 percent of the global smartphone operating system market.
Lower courts initially backed Google’s defense, but these rulings were overturned on appeal in Federal Court, which found that “…the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages” used by Google “are entitled to copyright protection.”
In 2018, a Federal Court ruled that Google’s use of the Java API was not protected by “fair use” laws.
Having played out in the lower courts for nearly a decade, the Supreme Court is set to hear the case next year.
In its battle with Google, Oracle will face an army of Google-funded Washington think tanks all of which are likely to use their legal resources to help defend the company. Some have already filed amicus briefs in defense of Google’s position.
Google executive Kent Walker, infamous for his leaked post-election rant about Trump-style populism potentially causing a world war, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case in a statement to the Verge.
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case and we hope that the Court reaffirms the importance of software interoperability in American competitiveness,” said Walker.
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Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.