Skip to main content

Google loses copyright appeal against Oracle, may owe billions

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that Google’s use of application program interfaces (APIs) owned by Oracle is a violation of U.S. copyright laws, Reuters reports. The case was remanded to a lower court to determine damages. The ruling comes two years after a lower court ruled in Google’s favor, stating its use of APIs fell under fair use.

The ruling is the latest in a contentious legal battle that has spanned a better part of a decade. Oracle contends that Google infringed upon its copyrights when the tech giant used 37 unlicensed Java APIs to create Android OS. Google countered its use fell under “fair use” under copyright law.

When Oracle initially filed the suit in 2010, it sought out $2.6 billion in damages for the API use. When the case went in front of a jury in 2016, it recalculated damages based on the growth of the Android platform and upped its number to $9.3 billion, with $8.3 billion representing Google’s profits from Android.

While the court ruled that APIs are not eligible for copyright protection in the Google v. Oracle trial, a separate 2014 case tried in front of the Federal circuit court issued a decision stating APIs are indeed subject to copyright laws; the higher court’s ruling paved the way for Oracle’s most recent appeal.

In response to the ruling, Dorien Daley, Oracle’s Executive Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary, told Digital Trends “the Federal Circuit’s opinion upholds fundamental principles of copyright law and makes clear that Google violated the law. This decision protects creators and consumers from the unlawful abuse of their rights.”

We reached out to Google for its response to the verdict. A spokesperson for the company said,  “We are disappointed the court reversed the jury finding that Java is open and free for everyone. This type of ruling will make apps and online services more expensive for users. We are considering our options.”

It’s unclear exactly what options Google has at this point. The Supreme Court declined to hear the case once already, but it is likely the tech giant will continue the appeals process for as long as possible.

Should the ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit stand, the implications could be significant for developers. Programmers frequently use APIs to develop both new software and integrate different applications. Additionally, consumers could expect to see higher software prices and fewer options on the market.

Updated March 27, 2018: Added statement from Oracle. 

Editors' Recommendations

Steven Winkelman
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven writes about technology, social practice, and books. At Digital Trends, he focuses primarily on mobile and wearables…
Google’s completed Fitbit acquisition may help Wear OS more than Fitbit
fitbit versa 3 deal amazon black friday 2020 2 fi 768x768

Google’s $2.1 billion acquisition of Fitbit has been completed, following a lengthy regulatory process that began soon after the announcement of the deal took place in November 2019. Concerns over privacy and antitrust forced Google to agree to various rules in order to pass the deal in the European Union, and in the announcement of the deal’s closure, both Google and Fitbit have said it’s about devices, and not data.

Fitbit has become the brand most associate with fitness tracking, illustrated by how it has sold 120 million devices all over the world since the company’s inception in 2007. It has created a user-friendly, data-rich fitness platform, matched to simple hardware that appeals to many. Fitbit is the fifth largest wearable tech company in the world by shipments, according to IDC, behind Apple, Xiaomi, Huawei, and Samsung.

Read more
Google may add Apple-like Continuity tools to Chrome OS and Android
google pixelbook i7 price cut amazon

Google may be developing Apple-like Continuity features for Chrome OS and Android. In recent experimental updates, 9to5Google has found instances of a new tool that will possibly allow users to resume and continue their Android phone activities on a Chromebook.

Internally called the Android Phone Hub, it will offer a “UI for users to view information about their Android phone and perform phone-side actions within Chrome OS.” Based on further pre-release evidence, Android Phone Hub will be capable of mirroring notifications from Android phones and potentially let users respond to them too right from a Chromebook.

Read more
Huawei may bring back the P30 Pro to cure our thirst for Google apps
Huawei P30 Pro review

Evidence has emerged that Huawei may be ready to launch a revised version of its 2019 P30 Pro flagship smartphone. Huawei’s official consumer site in Germany mentions a P30 Pro New Edition in a series of terms and conditions, alongside listings for the P30, P30 Pro, and the P30 Lite New Edition. What’s special about this? If the P30 Lite is anything to go by, the P30 Pro New Edition will have Google Mobile Services installed.

The P30 Lite New Edition was released at the end of 2019, and although the official page doesn’t mention the presence of Google Play and other Google services, reviews and unboxing videos have shown the phone with the app store and Google’s services installed on the phone. How is this possible? After all, the U.S. government has banned U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei, which has stopped it from working with Google.

Read more