Google Asks SCOTUS to Kill Oracle Java API Ruling

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By George Khoury, Esq. on January 29, 2019 6:00 AM

The Google v. Oracle litigation over Java APIs is on its ninth year, and now, second appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

Google has filed a petition for writ of certiorari seeking to resolve one fundamental issue for software copyrights (whether APIs can even be copyrighted), and one specific issue relating to whether Google's specific use of the Java APIs to create a new program constitutes fair use.

Another Reversal of Fortunes

The whole controversy dates back to the days when smartphones were just establishing their market dominance pre-2010.

Google, in its efforts to develop the Android OS, used several Java APIs, which wasn't a problem until Oracle, in 2010, purchased Sun Microsystems, the creator of Java. When Oracle took over, it claimed that Google had violated its newly acquired copyrights by using the Java APIs without paying any royalties. Google defended itself claiming that the Java APIs are not entitled to copyright protection.

Unfortunately for Google, despite winning at trial, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit turned that Google jury verdict into a win for Oracle, remanding the matter solely for a retrial on the issue of damages.

Supporters of Google's position posit that a win for Oracle is bad for the tech community, and particularly Java developers, as the way things stand now, the developers are more limited. Additionally, the impact of the appellate court's decision is anticipated to be much worse for small and independent developers who rely on the Java APIs to create new programs.

While SCOTUS has not indicated one way or another about the recently filed matter, many believe that the High Court will take the issue up because the last time it heard a similar issue, the Court split 4-4. Additionally, there is a circuit split on the issue, which can sometimes motivate SCOTUS to take up matters.

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