The legal battle between Oracle and Google is entering a new stage, and whatever happens could change the entire software industry.
The companies are now arguing whether the case should go to the Supreme Court. Google is trying to get the court to rule, while Oracle this week asked the court not to hear the case.
Some of the biggest names in the computer industry have filed opinions to the Supreme Court on why they think an Oracle win would be bad for the computer industry.
Among the folks involved in that are “father of the Internet” Vinton Cerf (who is also a Google employee), Ken Thompson (co-designer of the Unix operating system), five Turing Award winners, four National Medal of Technology winners, privacy watchdog the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others, reports Computerworld.
To recap: a couple of years ago, Oracle shocked the world by suing Google for $US6 billion (although the judge rejected that amount as ridiculously high), claiming patent and copyright infringement over Android. The original lawsuit had some of the biggest names in tech on the stand testifying, like Google chairman Eric Schmidt.
Oracle owns a programming language called Java. Oracle asserts that Google illegally copied Java when creating Android. The part that was copied is something called “application programming interfaces.” That’s the part of a program that allows two apps to talk to each other and work together.
Oracle lost the patent suit but the jury was split on the copyright suit. A jury agreed that Google did copy Java’s API, but they were deadlocked on if that copying was actually illegal or if it fell under the “fair use” doctrine. An appeals court told Oracle it was free to take the case back to another jury trial.
In October, Google decided to try and sidestep a whole new trial and instead asked the Supreme Court to take on the case. On Monday, Oracle asked Supreme Court not hear the case.
The group of computer industry luminaries filed a brief to the Supreme Court on Google’s behalf. These folks argue if programmers have to worry about paying licensing fees when writing APIs for their apps, that will stifle innovation and make it harder for apps to work together.
“When programmers can freely reimplement or reverse engineer an API without obtaining a costly licence or risking a lawsuit, they can create compatible software that the interface’s original creator might never have envisioned or had the resources to develop,” their brief said.
So there’s a lot up in the air right now. Will the Supreme Court take on the case? Will it rule in a way that could damaging the software industry? Will Google wind up owing Oracle a lot of money?
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.