The Supreme Courtroom guidelines in Google’s favor in copyright disputes with Oracle over Android software program

Larry Page, executive director of Google Inc., right, speaks to the media when he arrives in court in San Jose, California, USA on Monday, September 19, 2011.

Ryan Anson | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Supreme Court sided with Google versus Oracle on Monday in a longstanding copyright battle over the software used in Android, the mobile operating system.

The court’s decision was 6-2. Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who had not yet been confirmed by the Senate when the case was discussed in October, did not participate in the case.

The case involved approximately 12,000 lines of code that Google used to build Android that were copied from the Java application programming interface developed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired in 2010. This has been viewed as a landmark controversy over what types of computer code are protected under American copyright law.

Oracle had claimed in certain places that it owed up to $ 9 billion while Google claimed that its use of the code falls under fair use doctrine.

Oracle sued Google for use of its code and twice won its case in the US Federal Circuit Specialized Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court overturned the appeal court’s decision.

Continue reading: Judges guarding an emerging technology industry in the battle between Google and Oracle Supreme Court

Judge Stephen Breyer, who drafted the majority opinion on the case, agreed that Google’s use of the code was protected under fair conditions.

“We conclude that in this case, where Google has re-implemented a user interface and only uses what is necessary for users to bring their accumulated talents to a new and transformative program, copying the Sun Java Google’s API was a fair use of this material for legal reasons, “wrote Breyer.

Breyer was accompanied by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito disagreed.

The case, one of the most prominent of the term, was a high profile battle for competing visions of the future of software development.

“The long-established practice of reusing software interfaces is critical to modern software development,” Google’s attorney, veteran Supreme Court attorney Tom Goldstein, told the judges during the arguments.

The case was originally due to be heard in the final term before it was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

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