The long legal battle between Google and Oracle over alleged Android patent infringement has new players involved. In the US Supreme Court, the lawsuit has received opinions from companies such as Microsoft and IBM, which were in favor of the maker of the operating system.
The court dispute began in 2010, shortly after Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, the former owner of the Java programming language. The company filed a lawsuit for understanding that Google misused the platform's APIs to develop Android.
The operating system was developed with Google's own code, but uses excerpts from the Java source code. In its defense, the company claims that it used the language on a tiny portion of the system to make Android accessible to other developers.
In 2012, the court understood that the use did not infringe any Java patent. However, in 2014, upon appeal, the Court of Appeal found that the code is copyrighted and that the process should return to the lower court.
The court should consider so-called reasonable use, which allows the adoption of protected resources without direct permission in certain situations. In 2016, the conclusion was that, even with copyright, there was reasonable use, but in 2018, Oracle appealed again and managed to annul the previous decision.
The Supreme Court is now examining whether a programming language can be considered company property. If the court finds that this could happen, it will also have to assess whether Google has made reasonable use of Java to develop Android.
What companies say
Most of the companies' collaborations in the process are favorable to Google. Microsoft said the ruling in favor of Oracle "takes an unduly narrow view of fair use that elevates functional code to the same level of copyright protection as the creative expression of a novel.
"If, as in the early days of computing, each device had its own proprietary interface, you could never add a product outside the supply system of a particular supplier," continued the company. "But in today's interoperable ecosystem, consumers can often choose smart products based on their merits and functionality, without worrying about the compatibility of their system."
IBM, meanwhile, said that interfaces like Java are not protected by copyright. "This simple yet powerful principle has been the basis of technological and economic growth for over 60 years," the company argued.
"Never before, in this case, has a court of appeal declared that software interfaces are protected by copyright in addition to the code that represents the implementation of these interfaces. This is not because this principle is marginal; it is because it has always been accepted – based on precedent that go back to 140 years, "pointed out IBM.
The US Supreme Court will begin discussing the case in March and is expected to end a discussion that lasts almost a decade. And, if favorable to Oracle, the decision could completely change the market we know.