Google v. Oracle: The High Court Holds the Future of IP in Its Hands
In what many regard as the intellectual property case of the century, the United States Supreme Court has—on October 7, 2020—presided over oral arguments in Google v. Oracle. The decade-long dispute between two of Silicon Valley’s behemoths centers on Google’s unauthorized use of 11,500 lines from Oracle’s Java APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) declaring code in its Android operating system. Given the global ubiquity of smartphones, roughly three-quarters of which use the Android operating system, the financial stakes have never been higher. As we await the outcome of the October 7 proceedings, there are important questions to contemplate, including the uncertain impact of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. In particular, can the attorneys for Google convincingly argue that the unauthorized use of the JAVA APIs’ declaring code is justified? It may be justifiable if these particular API packages are not copyrightable. On the other hand, if Google accepts Oracle’s claim of copyright protection, can Google then assert a fair use defense for its use of 11,500 lines of declaring code?