In 2019, Google asked the Supreme Court to review Oracle’s long-running lawsuit over whether Android’s usage of Java was fair use. The Supreme Court this morning sided with Google and overturned Oracle’s win following a lower court ruling three years ago.
This suit dates back to Oracle’s 2010 purchase of Java developer Sun Microsystems. After the acquisition, the new language owners sued Google, claiming that Android’s use of Java entitled them to an $8.8 billion slice of the operating system’s business and $475 million in lost potential licensing revenue.
A jury found in 2016 that Google’s use of declaring code — and the structure, sequence, and organization of Java APIs — was fair use. However, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned that decision in Oracle’s favor. Two years after being petitioned, the Supreme Court has issued a ruling in Google’s favor.
Google’s copying of the Java SE API, which included only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, was a fair use of that material as a matter of law.
Justice Stephen Breyer
The nation’s top court ruled 6-2 with Justice Thomas leading the dissent, while Justice Barrett did not participate in the consideration or decision.
This Google win over Oracle comes as the Android maker argued that the 2018 ruling overturning its victory would have “far-reaching impact on innovation across the computer industry.” Many other companies and organizations filed briefs supporting Google’s case.
We reach the conclusion that in this case, where Google reimplemented a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow users to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, Google’s copying of the Sun Java API was a fair use of that material as a matter of law.
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