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Trump Backs Supporter Larry Ellison in Court Fight With Google

Malathi Nayak

(Bloomberg) -- The Trump administration urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reject an appeal by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, boosting Oracle Corp.’s bid to collect more than $8 billion in royalties for Google’s use of copyrighted programming code in the Android operating system.

The administration weighed in on the high-stakes case on the same day that President Donald Trump attended a re-election campaign fundraiser in California hosted by Oracle’s co-founder, billionaire Larry Ellison.

Ellison hosted a golf outing and photos with Trump. The event cost a minimum of $100,000 per couple to attend, with a higher ticket price of $250,000 for those who wanted to participate in a policy roundtable with the president, the Palm Springs Desert Sun reported.

Google is challenging an appeals court ruling that it violated Oracle copyrights when it included some Oracle-owned Java programming code in Android. The dispute has split Silicon Valley, pitting developers of software code against companies that use the code to create programs.

Google’s “verbatim copying” of Oracle’s code into a competing product wasn’t necessary to foster innovation, the U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco said Wednesday in a filing with the court.

Francisco had asked the high court in September, on behalf of the administration, not to hear Google’s appeal. The Supreme Court usually, though not always, takes the solicitor general’s advice about pending appeals. In this case, the justices agreed to take the case and are scheduled to hold oral arguments on March 24.

”The Obama Solicitor General Don Verrilli supported Oracle’s position in Oracle v. Google, a position maintained by Trump Solicitor General Noel Francisco,” Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said in an email.

Google contends the appeals court ruling, if not reversed, will make it harder to develop new applications.

“A remarkable range of consumers, developers, computer scientists, and businesses agree that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no single company should be able to monopolize creativity by blocking software tools from working together,” the company said in a statement. “Openness and interoperability have helped developers create a variety of new products that consumers use to communicate, work, and play across different platforms.”

Francisco asked the justices to give the government 10 minutes to argue its position in the case. The U.S. has “substantial interest” in issues regarding copyright law and the re-use of computer code at the heart of the dispute, he said in a filing.

(Updates with fundraiser details in third paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected spelling on former solicitor general’s name.)

--With assistance from Mark Bergen and Nico Grant.

To contact the reporter on this story: Malathi Nayak in San Francisco at mnayak21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Blumberg, Joe Schneider

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