The US Supreme Court has agreed to take up a Google appeal in a long-running copyright case brought by Oracle that has cast a shadow over common development practices in the software world.
The decision, announced on Friday, comes despite a recommendation by the Solicitor General that the justices reject the case, and gives the internet giant new hope in a case that has run since 2010. Had the court refused Google’s appeal, the case would have been returned to a lower court for damages to be assessed, with Oracle seeking $9bn.
The case turns on whether Google illegally copied code from Java, a software development framework owned by Oracle, when it created its Android mobile operating system. By using the same “labels” for its software interfaces, it made it easier for software developers who had already written programs for the mobile version of Java to adapt them for Android.
Google’s supporters have claimed that, if it loses the case, software developers will have to seek permission before writing applications to run on the most widely-used tech platforms, hurting competition in the software industry. Welcoming Friday’s decision, Kent Walker, Google’s top legal officer, said the internet company hoped “that the court reaffirms the importance of software interoperability in American competitiveness.”
Oracle, by contrast, has argued that a ruling would make no difference to how the software industry currently operates, and many other top technology companies have already taken out licences to Java — something that some Google engineers had warned internally was legally necessary when it first adopted the Java code without first seeking permission.
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