Google Faces Supreme Court Showdown with Oracle in 2020

AFP/File Jeff Pachoud
AFP/File Jeff Pachoud

Google will go into next year facing a Supreme Court showdown with Oracle, a long-time competitor that alleges the Internet giant took code that was copyrighted by the company for use in its Android smartphones.

The case revolves around Java, a computer programming language developed by Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle in 2009. Google attempted to obtain a license from Sun, but negotiations broke down after Google failed to offer a guarantee that its version of the language would be inter-operable with other versions.

According to the lawsuit, Google then obtained 11,500 lines of Java code from an open-source project run by the Apache Software Foundation. However, this was not an officially licensed Java implementation.

Software code is subject to copyright laws, which means that Sun — and by extension, Oracle — controls the code associated with Java.

While Oracle did make this code available for free to app developers, it has always maintained that large corporations that ran competing platforms (like Google!) ought to pay for it.

Google did not pay for it, and the software it developed with the help of Java, Android, now represents over 87 percent of the global smartphone operating system market.

Rachel Bovard of the Internet Accountability Project noted, “According to the legal filings, Google initially approached Oracle about licensing Java for Android after trying and failing to write its own code. When negotiations stalled, Google simply copied the code anyway.”

Lower courts initially backed Google’s defense, but these rulings were overturned on appeal in Federal Court, which found that “…the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages” used by Google “are entitled to copyright protection.”

In 2018, a Federal Court ruled that Google’s use of the Java API was not protected by “fair use” laws.

As intellectual propetyy and antitrust law professor, Adam Candeub, an expert on big tech censorship noted, noted, the creation of Android was perhaps the key component to maintaining Google’s search monopoly, as it made Google the default search engine just as Google was struggling on mobile search.

“In the ensuing years, mobile search has surpassed desktop,” wrote Candeub. “Android now enjoys a duopoly on smartphones in the U.S. and controls 75% of the global market.”

Having played out in the lower courts for nearly a decade, the Supreme Court is set to hear the case next year.

In its battle with Google, Oracle will face an army of Google-funded Washington think tanks all of which are likely to use their legal resources to help defend the company. Some have already filed amicus briefs in defense of Google’s position.

Google executive Kent Walker, infamous for his leaked post-election rant about Trump-style populism potentially causing a world war, welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case in a statement to the Verge.

“We welcome the Supreme Court’s decision to review the case and we hope that the Court reaffirms the importance of software interoperability in American competitiveness,” said Walker.

Are you an insider at Facebook, YouTube, Google, Reddit or any other tech company who wants to confidentially reveal wrongdoing or political bias at your company? Reach out to Allum Bokhari at his secure email address

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News.


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