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Google CEO Pichai speaks during his keynote address at the Google IO developers conference in San Francisco
Image: Google CEO Pichai speaks during his keynote address at the Google IO developers conference in San Francisco. EUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Google Legal Battle Could Leave it Owing Oracle $8.8 Billion

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Image: Google CEO Pichai speaks during his keynote address at the Google IO developers conference in San Francisco. EUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

An appeals court ruling states that Google’s use of Java did not qualify as “fair use.”

The case is now remanded in order to decide how much Google will need to pay Oracle.

Oracle’s Advantage

Following a ruling in a long-running lawsuit, Google may owe Oracle Corp. several billion dollars. Google has been using Oracle’s Java programming code within its Android mobile operating system. According to an appeals court, this did not qualify as “fair use” of Oracle’s property.

The two software giants have been battling in this feud for several years. Google has been using Java shortcuts in the development of Android. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has now ruled that this violated Oracle’s copyrights.

Starting in 2010

The case was originally filed in 2010. It made its way through appeals courts until the most recent ruling. The case is now remanded to a federal court in California. There, the decision will be made regarding how much Google will be required to pay Oracle for its copyright violation.

Oracle’s lawsuit sought $8.8 billion. That said, the final amount may be greater than that. Google stated that it was disappointed in the ruling and that it is looking into the next steps it will be taking in this case.

Silicon Valley Divided

The implications of this case could be widespread throughout the software industry. Silicon Valley has been divided about its opinion on the matter for many years. The division lies between those who create the code that allows software steps to function, and the people who create software programs themselves and say that their practice of “fair use” of coding exempts these actions from copyright law.

This ruling could help define the way code is used and software is developed in the future. Many believe this case will continue forward to the Supreme Court as the most recent ruling in the Federal Circuit has been highly controversial.

The Federal Circuit ruling adheres to the basics of copyright law. In that light, it demonstrates that Google violated copyright law and used Oracle’s property. However, many in Silicon Valley claim that the “fair use” of code is a necessary and common practice in software development, to which copyrights do not apply.

“The Federal Circuit’s opinion upholds fundamental principles of copyright law and makes clear that Google violated the law,” said Dorian Daley, Oracle’s General Counsel in a prepared statement. “This decision protects creators and consumers from the unlawful abuse of their rights.”

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Alvexo on the matter.