Google vs Oracle – The Clash of the Tech Titans Comes to an End in Supreme Court

April 07, 2021 | 3 minutes read

An epic, Google vs Oracle Supreme Court battle regarding copied code has concluded after 10 years, and it’s a happy ending for Google. 


Oracle, a computer tech giant accused Google of copying Java code back in 2010. If the Google vs Oracle Supreme Court case decision had gone the other way, it would’ve translated into Google paying billions in damages, since the majority of the world’s smartphones and other smart devices run on open-source Android operating system.


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The Supreme Court, however, gave Google a clean chit, reversing a lower court’s decision that held it accountable for copying over 11,000 lines of Java code and. The case revolved around the question; Are APIs Copyrightable? And in this case, they were not and Google’s use of Java code was termed as “fair use”.


Google vs Oracle Case Explained

The Google vs Oracle Supreme Court case hearing was supposed to begin last year but it was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The lawsuit had the attention of the tech world because of the nature of this case.


Until recently, it was believed that the copyright laws do not restrict the use of the type of code that Google copied from Java programming language to power its operating systems. Oracle, however, believes that its APIs are protected under copyright law.


Google admitted to using parts of the Java code but has also said that the use of such APIs is fair. They believe that the use of such software programming code should not be copyrightable because it ensures interoperability between computing devices and services. 


Simply put, this case asks whether software developers can copy functional names present in the software code or the interface, as long as they are not copying the main source code?


Justice Stephen Breyer’s shared his opinion on this important subject in a written statement:


“To allow enforcement of Oracle’s copyright claims here would risk harm to the public”. He stated that developers have been learning about Oracle’s building blocks for a while now and implementing their programming skills to create new software. A move on restricting the use of such APIs will turn the code into “a lock limiting the future creativity of new programs.” and this means “Oracle alone would hold the key”


Oracle’s general counsel was not happy with the decision and strongly disagreed with the decision. He warned that such decisions will make Google more powerful and hinder other tech companies’ entry into the industry.


“They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can. This behavior is exactly why regulatory bodies around the globe and in the US are examining Google’s business practices.”


Google SVP for Global Affairs Ken Walker, on the other hand, seemed quite pleased with the decision and labeled it as a proud moment for the industry.


“Today’s Google vs Oracle Supreme Court case decision is a big win for innovation, interoperability, and computing.”


The decision was being closely seen by the tech community because it was supposed to set a precedent for the future. It will certainly influence the future of computing technologies and software development. Stay tuned to InvoZone for more tech news.