On Monday, the Supreme Court denied an appeal made by Google Inc. for stopping a billion dollar suit filed against the firm by Oracle Corp. by seeking restrictions on software copyright protections. The move by the high court is the latest development in a case that was filed way back in 2010 when it was alleged by Oracle that its copyrights pertaining to the Java platform had been infringed by the Android smartphone operating system of Google Inc. Without comment, the Oracle suit justices refused to alter a ruling made by an appeals court in 2014 in favor of Oracle that reinvigorated the case of the company against Google.
A trial judge had been overruled by the appeals court, which said 37 packages of prewritten Java programs, which are called application programming interfaces, are entitled to be protected by copyrights. Oracle is seeking approximately $1 billion in damages. It was originally held by a jury that Oracle copyrights had been infringed by Google, but it deadlocked on the US search company’s defense that the copying had been for fair use. A lower court will have to retry this issue. The Supreme Court had been asked by Google to hear the case and restrict how copyright law could be used by software makers for asserting exclusive rights over some computer programs.
Google argued that copyrights on basic software commands shouldn’t be held by Oracle. In response, Oracle said that it had used creative and original computer code and the important legal protections for software would be undermined due to Google’s position in the technology industry. Oracle said that either Google should have written a separate code for itself or made payments for a license to their computer code. The case has been closely followed by the tech industry. Some initial interest had been showed by the Supreme Court as it had asked the Obama administration regarding its opinion on intervention.
Donald Verrilli, the US Solicitor General answered with a brief in which he said that the case should be sidestepped by the court, especially because a lower court hadn’t yet resolved the issue of fair-use. He also added that one of the key arguments used by Google Inc. against copyrights on the Java program weren’t valid and didn’t hold any merit. A spokesman for Google said that they wouldn’t stop defending the interoperability that has made room for competition and innovation in the software industry.
Dorian Daley, the General Counsel for Oracle Corp said that the action taken by the high court can be constituted as a win for the tech industry and for innovation because copyright protection makes room for development. Google’s Android OS has become quite successful since its origin and is used in more than 70% of the smartphones that are sold in the billion dollar industry. It will be a serious blow to the search engine giant if it has to pay the damages and it would also have to pay for a license in the future.