In brief: The near decade-long copyright battle between Google and Oracle is headed to the US Supreme Court. The SCOTUS has granted a writ of certiorari in the suit, meaning the companies can plead their cases for a final decision. The high court has denied petitions to hear arguments until now.
Google is seeking to overturn a 2018 Federal Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to grant another retrial to Oracle over its claim that companies can copyright application programming interfaces (API). These packages of code allow software of different types and from various developers to work together — specifically Java in this case.
Oracle initially filed suit against Google in 2010, claiming that its Android operating system used proprietary Java APIs without a license, thus infringing upon Oracle's copyrights and patents. Google defeated the lawsuit in a 2012 jury trial in District Court, only to have it overturned by the Circuit. It won the case again it 2016, only to have the appellate court call for yet another retrial.
In January of this year, Google petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States (again) for a hearing on the 2018 decision. The SCOTUS agreed to listen to the appeal. Legal teams will have one hour to present their cases, but no date has been set for the hearing.
"We hope that the Court reaffirms the importance of software interoperability in American competitiveness."
Google hopes that the highest law in the land will agree that its use of the APIs constitutes a fair-use scenario. So far, lower courts have ruled that Android uses the 37 APIs in question in a way that falls under fair use on two separate occasions.
Oracle wanted a third trial, but the District Court judge who had been presiding over the case for more than six years denied another hearing. The company's persistent legal team took it up with the federal appeals court again, which sided with it for a new trial.
The final decision has implications that reach far beyond a beef between Oracle and Google. Microsoft, Mozilla, and other developers fear that a ruling against Google would spell doom for software companies trying to get their programs to cooperate with other applications. The Electronic Frontier Foundation and internet advocacy group Public Knowledge also support the search giant's use of the API packages.
"We welcome the Supreme Court's decision to review the case, and we hope that the Court reaffirms the importance of software interoperability in American competitiveness," Google's Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker told The New York Times. "Developers should be able to create applications across platforms and not be locked into one company's software."