Supreme Court Hears Oracle v. Google Oral Argument


Sean Yang, Staff Writer

The Supreme Court has just heard arguments in a 9 billion dollar copyright infringement fight between two major tech companies Oracle and Google. This is due to Google’s unlicensed use of Oracle’s software application, Java, in order to develop its Android operating system. The fight between these two companies could potentially reshape the legal guidelines in the tech industry. 

The majority of the tech industry has backed up Google in this case with the usual rivals—Microsoft, IBM, and Mozilla—actually filing amicus briefs against Oracle. Google claims that if Oracle wins the case, all developers who rely on and use Java  unlicensed, will no longer have access to the program. This could potentially be detrimental as around 9 million people in the world all use Oracle’s API. However, Oracle dismisses this claim and argues that Google has actually used more than 11,000 lines of code without Oracle’s permission as the code was a protected form of expression. 

A ruling for Google would “decimate the incentive” to create top tier code, said Joshua Rosenkranz who is arguing the case for Oracle. “Who will invest the excruciating time it takes to refine code from the passable to the masterful if all of it can be stolen?” said Rosenkranz. 

Even after these arguments, many justices have their own thoughts on what would happen if Oracle would win the case. “We’ve got to figure out what the menu should be like,” said Chief Justice John Roberts. 

The justices are comparing Google to a customer at a restaurant who wanted to sample a taste before they commit to a dish. Google should have the right to use the code instead of “trying to figure out what the menu should look like,” said Roberts. This way, Google will know whether or not they really want to continue developing the Android OS with Oracle’s API.

This case goes all the way back to 2012 when a jury ruled Google’s use of Java code was fair and lawful. Since then, Justice Neil Gorsuch has brought the case back in after opening the possibility of reinstating the jury’s verdict. However, this time around, the court has come to a less conclusive ruling which states that Google should have used an alternative to Java’s API instead of just copying the same code. This could potentially lead to many more disputes regarding copyright infringement with other APIs. A decision to this case is expected to come out before July 2021.


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