Google Bests Oracle In Java Lawsuit, A ‘Great Victory’ For Channel

The Supreme Court Monday ruled 6-2 in favor of Google in a long running Java software code lawsuit with Oracle.


The Supreme Court Monday ruled 6-2 in favor of Google in a long running Java software code lawsuit with Oracle.

The nation’s highest court overturned an earlier decision in the case in which Oracle was seeking a $9 billion pay-day in a copyright case related to the Java programming language.

Oracle – which acquired the Java application programming interface (API) from Sun Microsystems in 2010 - had maintained that Google stole thousands of lines of Java software code to build the popular Google Android mobile phone operating system.

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Justice Stephen Breyer, who wrote the majority opinion in the case, said that Google’s use of the Java code was protected under fair use.

“Google copied only what was needed to allow programmers to work in a different computing environment without discarding a portion of a familiar programming language,” wrote Breyer. “Google’s purpose was to create a different task-related system for a different computing environment (smartphones) and to create a platform — the Android platform — that would help achieve and popularize that objective.”

The Supreme Court victory for Google came even with the Justice Department supporting Oracle in the case.

Bob Venero, CEO of Holbrook, N.Y.-based solution provider Future Tech, No. 96 on the CRN SP500, called the Supreme Court decision a “great victory” for both Google and the channel.

“This is a great victory for VARs- both big and small- because it sets a precedent that solution providers have some flexibility in terms of the software APIs they use to build solutions for customers,” said Venero. “You need to have an open ecosystem when you are trying to get products and solutions to work for the masses. You can not be hamstrung by a restrictive use of every single line of code. This ruling is important for VARs and solution providers to be able to create their own APIs to get software code to work on different platforms.”

The Supreme Court decision shows that there was nothing “malicious” with regard to how Google was using the Java APIs for Android, said Venero. “What Google was trying to do was make Android work more efficiently with the internet ecosystem, “ he said.

The case highlights the blurred lines that come with software code in a support of interoperability, said Venero. “When you are integrating various products there are a lot of blurred lines with regard to APIs and software stacks,” he said.

If the Supreme Court had ruled in favor of Oracle, Venero said, Google would have been forced to license the code and pay Oracle billions of dollars. “If Oracle had won, Google would have been forced to pay a licensing or subscription fee to Oracle to the tune of billions of dollars,” he said.

Kent Walker, senior vice president of global affairs for Google, in a statement provided to CRN called the Supreme Court ruling 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,” he said. “We are very grateful for the support from a wide range of organizations, from the National Consumers League to the American Library Association, as well as from established companies, start-ups, and the country’s leading software engineers and copyright scholars.”

Oracle, for its part, said in a statement provided to CRN that Google “stole” Java and spent a decade “litigating as only a monopolist can.”

“The Google platform just got bigger and market power greater — the barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower,” said Oracle.

Oracle said Google’s behavior “is exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google‘s business practices.”