Published 04/23/2021 by CIONCA IP TEAM (SE)
For over a decade, there has been a battle between two technology titans in the United States court system. In one corner is internet product and service provider Google. And in the other is database and enterprise software company Oracle. Their battle—over Google's use of nearly 12,000 lines of code from computer platform Java SE, which Oracle owns. On April 5th, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case's verdict. Here's what you should know about this landmark case.
In 2005, Google acquired software company Android, hoping to build the Android Platform, which now powers millions of phones worldwide. To create this platform, Google enlisted the help of programmers worldwide. These programmers knew the Java programming language, which Google also used to develop the Android platform. Google then decided to copy code from another company's Application Programming Interface (API) tool, which would later be the cause of the decade-long legal battle.
Instead of developing unique code for essential computer functions, Google copied about 11,500 lines from the Java SE program, which Oracle owns. This code helped developers access computing tasks through an API, which connects code for two or more programs together. This use of Oracle's API code sped up programming development time for those working on the Android Platform. Oracle argued that their use of 11,500 lines of code was a violation of copyright law.
Patent and copyright law in the United States is important because it can affect how all businesses operate in the future. Building a legal precedent for a company's actions has profound effects and can change how society perceives actions in potentially morally grey areas. Yet, this is only one reason the Google V. Oracle case is an important ruling on patient and copyright laws.
The Google V. Oracle case also matters because of the companies involved. Google is one of the most well-known organizations globally, and millions of people use their products and services daily. Oracle has also impacted the world through its technology, and for this reason, takes an aggressive approach against copyright infringement.
Additionally, Oracle has a record of auditing the use of their intellectual property and collecting licensing fees for unlicensed use of their Java SE platform. If the courts determined that Java SE's code was protected under copyright and that Google's use of the API code was not an application of the "fair use" doctrine, Google would be liable to Oracle for billions of dollars.
Google V. Oracle was argued up to the United States Supreme Court after several disagreements over copyright and fair use in the Federal Circuit courts. The Supreme Court ruled 6-2 that Google's unlicensed use of copyrighted material in the Java SE platform allowed for innovation and transformation, thus being an application of fair use. Therefore, it was a favorable outcome for Google, and potentially, an opening for other businesses to use specific code from Oracle and other companies.
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