United States Supreme Court awarded victory to Google in landmark case for the tech industry, declaring that it did not break the law by copying software interfaces belonging to Oracle for use in its system operating system for Android smartphone.
The decision ends a legal battle dating back more than a decade that involved a claim for damages of up to $ 9 billion. The case also raised fundamental issues affecting the balance of power between established platforms and upstart competitors in the software industry.
The judges opted for Google by a majority of six to two, with Conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting. The case was heard before Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by former President Donald Trump, joins the tribunal.
The ruling found that Google was covered by “fair use” protections in the early days of the smartphone industry when it used more than 11,000 lines of Oracle code to make its Android operating system compatible with. widely used Java software, which was later acquired by Oracle.
The use of pieces of Java code, known as application programming interfaces (APIs), made it easier for Java developers to adapt their existing programs to run on Android – a big advantage for Google. in its rivalry between smartphones and Apple.
Such copying has long been common in the tech industry, where companies often try to make their new software compatible with the most widely used technologies.
Google has sought to side with upstart competitors, saying the freedom to copy interfaces is important to anyone trying to compete with powerful tech platforms. But Oracle and its supporters have claimed the case shows just how powerful companies like Google are stealing code and having the legal power to crush challengers.
“The Google platform just got bigger and stronger in the market,” Oracle said after its loss. He added that the case shows “exactly why regulators around the world and the United States are reviewing Google’s business practices.”
The ruling would have repercussions far beyond the two huge tech groups and showed the court had thought deeply about the impact on the entire software world, said Pamela Samuelson, professor of law and information management. at the University of California at Berkeley. The decision clarified that much of the value of software interfaces has been created by the many developers who adopt and use them, which means they shouldn’t be limited, she said.
According to the Supreme Court ruling, written by Justice Stephen Breyer, “allowing Oracle’s copyright to apply here would risk harming the public”, according to the Supreme Court ruling, written by Justice Stephen Breyer . The result would be “a lock limiting the future creativity of new programs.” Oracle alone would hold the key. “
Google’s defense was twofold. He argued that it was protected by fair use, which allows limited use of copyrighted material, but he also argued that interfaces should not have the legal protection that covers most computer codes since they are considered to be a wheel in a car.
Making a decision solely on the point of fair use, the judges ruled that Google had used “only the lines of code necessary to allow programmers to put their accumulated talents to the service of a new and transformative program.”
By not ruling on whether interfaces are covered by copyright in the first place, the ruling left a key question open. Some developers have warned that most companies cannot afford the cost and uncertainty of putting together a long “fair use” defense.
However, Samuelson said the Supreme Court strengthened the defendants’ position by making it clear that its fair dealing decision was based on a question of law, rather than having anything to do with the facts of the case. ‘case.
This meant that defendants in the future would be able to seek summary judgment in court that they were covered by fair dealing, rather than facing a lengthy jury trial, she said.