The Oracle-Google saga, and its billions of dollars at stake, at the Supreme Court

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After years of proceedings, the battle between Google and software specialist Oracle arrives Wednesday before the Supreme Court of the United States, which will have to decide this dispute with enormous repercussions for the technology sector.

The temple of American law will hear, by teleconference, the arguments of the IT group and the Internet giant in this file opened in 2010, when Oracle accused Google of using patents belonging to it.

Oracle became the owner of the Java programming code after the acquisition of Sun Microsystems, which was the inventor.

The group accuses Google of having reproduced the operation of this technology without an operating license during the 2000s to design its Android operating system now equipping a large number of smartphones. He claims 9 billion dollars in compensation.

The Mountain View group explains that the exploitation of Java was free and open to all developers before the acquisition of Sun Microsystems by Oracle.

The debate has since been summed up in a serious attack on innovation (Google) against a fair recognition of intellectual property (Oracle).

Two first instance courts ruled in favor of Google. But a federal court of appeal took the opposite view in 2018, pushing the Californian giant to turn to the Supreme Court.

The question raised is whether application programming interfaces (APIs), a kind of coding between software, are well protected by intellectual property laws.

With the support of many other Silicon Valley companies, Google argues that extending patent laws to APIs risks threatening innovation in an ever-changing digital world.

“Software developers have long considered that they can freely use computer interfaces to develop new programs,” recalls the group led by Sundar Pichai in documents sent to the Court ahead of the hearing.

” Isle “

“Without shared APIs, every device and program would become an island and modern software development could no longer take place,” warned The Developers Alliance, which brings together application developers and other companies from around the world. sector.

Allowing Oracle to retain patents on Java codes “could slow down innovation and competition in software-dependent markets” and could “cement monopolies”, argued The American Antitrust Institute.

The hearing should have been held in the spring but had been postponed due to the pandemic.

It comes at a time when the power of the digital giants is coming under increasing criticism in the United States, as in Europe.


The file is not devoid of political ulterior motives: Oracle founder Larry Ellison is close to President Donald Trump. Conversely, Google is the subject of an investigation by the US competition authorities.

The Republican administration has also supported Oracle, believing that creators could not be deprived of their rights, just because they operate in the world of new technologies.

“Google copied 11,500 lines of computer code protected by patents” and other information belonging to Oracle, estimated the Ministry of Justice in an argument sent upstream of the hearing.

The conservative Hudson Institute think tank supports the same position. For him, authorizing Google to engage in “intellectual property theft” risks complicating the protection of American companies against attempts at industrial espionage from China.

On the same side, the American Publishers Association has ruled that weakening patent laws risks complicating “the creation and sharing of original works.”


In detail, Google and Oracle will debate what represents a “fair use” of a technology for “transformative” purposes, a legal nuance that allows a creator to completely transform a work, without asking for permission and without return rights to its author.

Google will argue that the first courts found its use “fair” and that their decisions must be validated.

The decision of the Supreme Court, which has only eight judges since the death of its dean Ruth Bader Ginsburg on September 18, 2020, will not be rendered for several weeks or months.

A stop in favor of Google would put an end to the legal marathon. If not, the case will likely be sent to lower courts and the marathon could continue.

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