Supreme Court rules that Google’s use of Java APIs in Android represent fair use

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In brief: The Supreme Court of the United States has sided with Google in its long-running legal battle with Oracle over the use of Java APIs in Android. The two sides have traded jabs in lower courts over the past decade before the matter made its way to the Supreme Court. At one point, Oracle was seeking more than $9 billion in damages from Google.

Oracle, if you recall, filed suit against Google in August 2010, alleging its Android mobile operating system infringed upon Java patents Oracle acquired following its purchase of Sun Microsystems.

Specifically, Google copied roughly 11,500 lines of code from 37 Java application programming interfaces (APIs) “to allow the millions of programmers familiar with the Java programming language to work with its new Android platform.”

Arguments were made to the high court back in October and on April 5, 2021, the Supreme Court ruled 6-2 in favor of Google. Ultimately, the court decided that Google’s copying of the Java API was a fair use of the material.

Dorian Daley, executive vice president and general counsel at Oracle, said of the decision, “the Google platform just got bigger and market power greater—the barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower. They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can.”

“This behavior is exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google’s business practices,” the executive added.

Google SVP of global affairs, Kent Walker, meanwhile, said the Supreme Court’s ruling “is a victory for consumers, interoperability, and computer science. The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers.”

Images courtesy icedmocha, Michael Vi

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