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Google wins the trial against Oracle: Court says copying Java on Android was ‘fair use’

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After more than a decade, the Oracle v. Google case seems to be coming to an end today with the ruling of one of the most important copyright lawsuits of the century, which was caused by the use of Java in Android.

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided by the majority (6 – 2) to give the reason to Google*, avoiding the company having to compensate with more than 9.3 billion dollars to Oracle.

The origin of this long legal battle that began in 2010 has to do with the structure, sequence, and organization of 37 Java APIs present in Android, in which Oracle defended that its source code was protected by copyright.

In 2016 the court already gave the reason to Google, alleging the same as in this second trial, that the implementation of Java in Android is a “fair use”. That same year, Google updated the Android API to use OpenJDK, the free version of Java to stop having possible legal problems with new versions of Android and to prevent indemnity from continuing to grow.

Google wins a judgment against Oracle: Ruling confirms that copying Java on Android was 'fair use'
Google wins a trial against Oracle: Ruling confirms that copying Java on Android was ‘fair use’

The case was reopened in 2018 when the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit accepted Oracle’s appeal, and now in 2021 the new ruling has been made public citing in the conclusion the following:

“The fact that software is fundamentally functional makes it difficult to apply traditional copyright concepts in that technological world….. We conclude that in this case, where Google reimplemented a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow users to put their accumulated talents to work in a new and transformative program, Google’s copying of the Java API was a fair use of that material as a matter of law.”

“In reviewing that decision, we assumed for the sake of argument that the material was copyrightable. We hold, however, that the copying in question constituted fair use. Therefore, Google’s copying did not violate copyright law.”

The court verifies what Google has been arguing for years, that to create the Android API it had no choice but to “copy” some Java functions, but that its use was always fair even if Oracle disagreed.

This ruling, as reported by Kent Walker, SVP of Global Affairs at Google, is a victory for consumers, interoperability, and computing, as the decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products. No longer will there be fear of being sued for being inspired by a few lines of code.

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