The long-running dispute between Oracle and Google over whether Java application programming interfaces (APIs) used within Android were protected by copyright has taken another strange turn, with the Justice Dept urging the Supreme Court not to hear Google’s appeal.

The legal battle is over whether small sections of code originally written by Oracle’s predecessor, Sun Microsystems, can be used under the ‘fair use’ exemption to copyright laws. Google argues that it used only small code snippits, did so mostly for consistency and offered to pay royalties; Oracle argues that the code is its intellectual property, and the royalties offered were too low … 

Oracle initially tried to make a patent claim against Google in 2011, which the United States Patent and Trademark Office rejected. Oracle then took Google to court the following year, the court ruling in favor of Google – and Google seeking $4M court costs from Oracle.

Oracle appealed, and a Federal appeals court found that even the API names and constructs were protected by copyright, surprising many in the tech world. Google then petitioned the US Supreme Court to overturn the Federal ruling.

Fortune reports that the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration for a view on the case, and that the Justice Department yesterday urged it not to agree to hear the case. The Supreme Court still makes its own decision – probably not for some months yet – but is likely to heed the advice.

The dispute has been an extremely contentious one, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison describing Google’s behavior as “absolutely evil,” and Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt saying that Oracle’s claims were “simply untrue.”

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