Feb 13, 2020 - Technology

Oracle counters Google's innovation claims in Supreme Court fight

A woman uses a laptop computer displaying the Oracle logo
Photo illustration: S3studio/Getty Images

Oracle pushed back Wednesday against Google's claims that the survival of software innovation rests on their long-running copyright battle, arguing an Oracle victory will ensure software makers enjoy copyright protections.

Why it matters: The Supreme Court is considering key questions related to software copyright and fair use — with billions of dollars in damages in the balance.

Driving the news: Oracle filed a response Wednesday to Google's opening brief in the case, which began when Oracle sued Google years ago over claims that Android software illegally used parts of Oracle's Java code.

  • Oracle argued in its brief that Google could have taken a Java license but instead committed an "egregious act of plagiarism and now needs to rewrite copyright law to justify it. It cannot."

Context: The companies have swapped victories in lower courts, with both the Trump and Obama administration siding with Oracle in advising the Supreme Court not to take up the case at different stages in the litigation.

  • Google, which marshaled a league of tech defenders to bolster its case, argues that an Oracle victory would upend software development and give copyright owners "monopoly power" over code to stifle competition.
  • But Oracle says software innovation has been exploding since it notched a win at a lower court in 2014. In a blog post, Oracle promised it will have “numerous” defenders, including the Songwriters Guild, filing supportive briefs.

What they're saying:

  • “Oracle’s position would undermine the practices that have helped developers build on existing technology and create new products," Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said. "That’s why developers and businesses from across the tech industry have supported open software interfaces and opposed attempts to monopolize the creation of new applications."
  • "We are told that innovators who are granted constitutional and statutory 'monopolies' to their innovations are … wait for it … monopolists," Oracle executive vice president Ken Glueck wrote in the blog post. "Those living in glass houses shouldn’t throw kettles."

What's next: The Supreme Court will hear oral argument from the companies March 24.

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