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Oracle Responds to Google's Supreme Court Hail Mary

In what is sure to be the last chapter in the seemingly unending courtroom drama that is Oracle v. Google, Oracle has responded to Google's hail-Mary request, filed with the Supreme Court in January, to review the appeals court's ruling that the Alphabet subsidiary infringed on Oracle's copyrights over its use of 37 Java APIs in the Android OS. In its 46-page petition, Oracle disputed Google's claim that the lower court's decision will harm software developers.

"Google claims the Court of Appeals' decision imperils the future of 'interoperable' software," the petition reads. "But Google has conceded that it purposely made its platform incompatible with Oracle's. So this is no case to consider the copyright implications of interoperability ... ."

The Oracle petition also shot down Google's fair use argument: "Google cites not a single case -- in any court -- that has ever held that copying this volume of code (or this much structure and organization) into a competing work is fair."

And it re-asserted that Google's actions "inflicted incalculable market harm" and represented "the epitome of copyright infringement."

The petition wraps up with a zinger: "Google's theory is that, having invested all those resources to create a program popular with platform developers and app programmers alike, Oracle should be required to let a competitor copy its code so that it can coopt the fan base to create its own best-selling sequel. That argument would never fly with any other copyrighted work ... ."

Oracle originally sued Google in 2010, but Google argued that its use of the Java APIs owned by Oracle was allowed under the "fair use" provisions of the federal copyright law, and therefore did not infringe on Oracle-owned copyrights. But that argument failed to persuade the court. "There is nothing fair about taking a copyrighted work verbatim and using it for the same purpose and function as the original in a competing platform," a panel of three Federal Circuit judges wrote in that opinion.

If my inbox is any indication, more than a few ADTmag readers are tired of this drama, and I don't blame them. But it's important to keep in mind what was originally at stake here; the court effectively ruled that copyright protections do extend to software interfaces. The impact of that decision is still to come.

Posted by John K. Waters on April 10, 2019