The US Supreme Court on Wednesday is set to consider whether to protect Alphabet’s Google from a long-running lawsuit by Oracle accusing it of infringing Oracle copyrights to build the Android operating system that runs most of the world’s smartphones.
The shorthanded court, down one justice following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month, is scheduled to hear oral arguments inappeal of a lower court ruling reviving the lawsuit in whichhas sought at least $8 billion (roughly Rs. 58,642 crores) in damages. The arguments will be held by teleconference because of thepandemic.
A juryin 2016, but the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuitin 2018, finding that Google’s inclusion of Oracle’s software code inwas not permissible under US copyright law.
Oracle and Google, two California-based technology giants with combined annual revenues of more than $190 billion (roughly Rs.13,92,728 crores), have been feuding sincefor copyright infringement in 2010 in federal court in San Francisco. The case’s outcome will help determine the level of copyright protection for software, according to intellectual property lawyers.
Oracle accused Google of copying thousands of lines of computer code from its popularprogramming language without a license in order to make Android, a competing platform that has harmed Oracle’s business.
Google has said the shortcut commands it copied into Android do not warrant copyright protection because they help developers write programs to work across platforms, a key to software innovation.
Even if the commands can be copyrighted, Google has said, its use of them was permissible under the ‘fair use’ defense to copyright infringement, which can protect copying that transforms an original copyrighted work. Google has argued that its copying was ‘undoubtedly transformative’ because it resulted in ‘an entirely new smartphone platform.’
The Federal Circuit in 2018 rejected Google’s defense, saying ‘a mere change in format (eg, from desktop and laptop computers to smartphones and tablets) is insufficient as a matter of law to qualify as a transformative use.’
Oracle will recalculate its damages request if it wins at the Supreme Court and the case is sent back to a lower court, Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley said in an interview. The compensation request would exceed the roughly $8 billion (roughly Rs. 58,661 crores) Oracle previously demanded, Daley added.
Presidentadministration backed Oracle in the case, previously urging the justices to turn away Google’s appeal.
The Supreme Court originally scheduled the argument for March but postponed it due to the pandemic.
The court has eight justices rather than its full complement of nine. President Donald Trump has asked the US Senate to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, his nominee to replace Ginsburg, by the November 3 US election.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
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