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Dept. of Justice Sides with Oracle in Lawsuit Versus Google

Published by: Frank Galvano on 2nd Jun 2015 | View all blogs by Frank Galvano

Dept. of Justice Sides with Oracle in Lawsuit Versus Google

Oracle scored a huge victory last week in its ongoing lawsuit against Google over the company's Android operating system. The Department of Justice filed an amicus brief in the case last week which essentially confirms a lower court's ruling siding with Oracle. The brief also recommended that the Supreme Court not take up the case, effectively putting an end to the matter if the Supreme Court follows the DOJ recommendation. The nation's highest court had asked to take a look at the matter after a pair of lower courts issued opposing rulings, but the US Solicitor General is now asking the Supreme Court to hold off until the lower courts rule on Google's Fair Use argument.

Oracle initially sued Google several years ago claiming that the Android operating system uses the same API, or application programming interface, as Java, a programming language that Oracle acquired when it purchased Sun Microsystems. Google has never argued that it copied parts of the Java API, but insists that APIs are not protected by copyright. A judge initially ruled in Google's favor, but Oracle appealed and won a decision about a year ago that said that APIs are protectable. The appellate court is now looking at Google's next argument, that their use of the Java code falls under the “fair use” doctrine, which allows limited portions of copyrighted material to be used by others. Of course, Google also asked the Supreme Court to hear the case before the fair use argument could be ruled on. With last week's brief from the Solicitor General, the higher court will likely wait until the fair use argument is resolved.

The Google / Oracle matter is being watched closely by tech observers, especially insiders that develop software. If the end ruling says that Oracle has full copyright protection of the Java API, the company may go after others that have copied it. For its part, Google says that it intentionally used the Java API so that app developers wouldn't have to learn a new coding language in order to develop apps for the Android platform. Should Oracle win, developers will have to spend more money developing apps in the future, and those costs will likely find their way to consumers. For its part, Google would be out billions in damages and have to continue paying royalties for income derived from Android.

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