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High court seeks Trump administration views on Google-Oracle feud

Posted On: Apr. 29, 2019 4:17 PM CST

(Reuters) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday asked the Trump administration to offer its views on whether it should hear Google’s bid to end Oracle Corp.’s copyright infringement lawsuit involving the Android operating system that runs most of the world’s smartphones.

The justices are considering whether to take up Google’s appeal of a lower court ruling reviving the lawsuit. Oracle has sought about $9 billion in damages.

A jury cleared Google in 2016, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which specializes in intellectual property disputes, overturned that decision in 2018, finding Google impermissibly used Oracle’s software code in Android under U.S. copyright law.

The case, which could help define the level of copyright protection for software, dates back to 2010 when Oracle sued in San Francisco federal court, accusing Google of harming its business by copying thousands of lines of computer code from its popular Java programming language without a license in order to make Android. Google, part of Alphabet Inc., said an Oracle victory would chill software innovation.

The case has whipsawed since the start with Google twice losing at the Federal Circuit. In 2014, that court reversed a federal judge’s ruling that Oracle’s interfaces could not be copyrighted.

The Federal Circuit last year rejected Google’s argument that its use of Oracle’s “application programming interfaces” was permitted under the so-called fair use doctrine of the 1976 Copyright Act because by adapting them to a mobile platform it transformed them into something new.

The Supreme Court occasionally asks a president’s administration for advice on whether to take up a particular case. The court in 2015 rebuffed a previous Google appeal in the case after the Justice Department under President Barack Obama recommended against hearing it.

The justices did not give President Donald Trump’s Justice Department a deadline for its response in the case.