The tech industry is begging the Supreme Court to overturn Oracle’s lawsuit against Google

Oracle founder, executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison

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Oracle founder, executive chairman and CTO Larry Ellison
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Getty/Justin Sullivan / Staff

  • Dozens of briefs have been filed begging the Supreme Court to weigh in on Oracle’s long-standing lawsuit against Google – and find in Google’s favor.
  • Google lost the case, which hinges on the use of Java technology in the Android operating system, on appeal. Google has asked the Supreme Court to hear the case.
  • Microsoft, Red Hat, Mozilla and a slew of law professors are standing behind Google.
  • Oracle, having won its appeal, calls their arguments to overturn the case “overheated.”

The Supreme Court has received an outpouring of amicus briefs from the tech industry and law professors imploring the highest court in the land to hear Oracle’s long-running case against Google – and rule in favor of Google.

Those asking the high court to take the case include Mozilla, Microsoft, the Python Software Foundation, Red Hat, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a list of 65 IP scholars, among others.

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This involves the endless suit over the use of Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in Google’s Android operating system. APIs allow software programs to talk to each other and share data or information. Nine years ago, Oracle sued Google, claiming it uses APIs taken from Java in violation of copyright law. Java is owned by Oracle.

Oracle first lost the case, but then won on appeal, and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case. Instead, the high court sent the case back to lower courts to hear Google’s second argument, which is that Java’s APIs fell under the Fair Use doctrine of copyright law. Again, Oracle lost the first case, and then again won on appeal.

And now Google has asked the Supreme Court to take up what would likely be the final appeal on the case.

So the industry has piled in asking the Supreme Court “to clean up the Oracle v. Google mess,” as the EFF puts it.

The EFF and others who filed briefs believe the computer industry is harmed when APIs cannot be freely copied, making it easier for programmers to get software to work together. Google’s supporters in this case argue that if APIs must be licensed, it will dramatically increase costs for programmers, and possibly lead to an uptick in nuisance lawsuits. Some of these briefs are making other arguments for overturning the appeals ruling, as well.

Oracle believes these arguments are without merit. It still hopes to keep its win and force Google to pay it billions in damages for the use of Java.

“Despite Google’s and its amici’s overheated rhetoric predicting the end of the software industry, it has continued to thrive, with increased R&D spending, higher investment in innovation, and hiring demand outpacing supply.” said Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley in an emailed statement.

At one point, Oracle demanded $8.8 billion from Google in damages. The lower court has not yet ruled on what amount, if any, Google would be commanded to pay should Google’s loss become permanent.