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Google Warns of Monopoly Powers in Oracle Fight at Supreme Court

Gerrit De Vynck

(Bloomberg) -- Alphabet Inc.’s Google urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a ruling that the company’s use of Oracle Corp.’s software for the Android mobile operating system violated copyrights, in a case that may reshape legal protections for software code.

Google, in a filing to the court dated Monday, largely repeats the search giant’s well-established arguments in a case that has been contested for almost a decade: That it was legal to use parts of Oracle’s Java programming language to help make Android communicate more easily with other software. A defeat, Google has argued, would restrict further innovation in the computing industry.

Oracle, which acquired Java when it bought its original developer Sun Microsystems, argues that it’s owed at least $8.8 billion for Google’s use of the code without a license. Much of Google’s business success over the past decade came from its ability to place its search engine -- and advertisements -- on phones running Android, which account for roughly one of every four smartphones worldwide.

The case is likely to have ramifications beyond Google and Oracle -- many tech companies and startups rely on using bits of code other companies develop or own when building new software. That’s the plea Google is making to the court.

“An Oracle win would upend the way the technology industry has always approached the important issue of software interfaces,” Kent Walker, Google’s legal chief, wrote Monday in a blog post. “It would for the first time grant copyright owners a monopoly power to stymie the creation of new implementations and applications.”

Oracle initially sued Google for copyright infringement in 2010. Since then, the case has worked its way through the legal system, spurring two jury trials and numerous appeals. The Supreme Court turned down Google’s first request to review the case in 2014. After a federal appeals court ruled in Oracle’s favor, Google filed another appeal to the high court, and the justices agreed in November to take the case. The court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in March or April and to rule by the end of June.

The case is Google v. Oracle America, 18-956.

--With assistance from Mark Bergen, Greg Stohr and Susan Decker.

To contact the reporter on this story: Gerrit De Vynck in New York at gdevynck@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack, Molly Schuetz

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