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Supreme Court Declines To Hear Google Appeal Of Oracle Suit

The denial leaves in place a ruling that Java is copyrightable — Oracle may seek a billion dollar in damages.

Posted on June 29, 2015, at 11:39 a.m. ET

MLADEN ANTONOV / Getty Images

The Supreme Court denied to review an appeal by Google in a long-running copyright lawsuit by Oracle regarding the use of its Java programming language.

The denial leaves in place a 2014 ruling by a the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that Java programming interfaces can be copyrighted — a major blow to Google's Android operating system, which is built in Java. The case now returns to a lower court.

Google has argued that free and open use of Java is crucial to innovation in Android, its open source software platform; Oracle has argued that licensing fees and protections are crucial to responsible development, and seeks a billion dollars in damages.

"Today's Supreme Court decision is a win for innovation and for the technology industry that relies on copyright protection to fuel innovation," Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley said in a statement. A Google spokesperson said, "We will continue to defend the interoperability that has fostered innovation and competition in the software industry."

The Obama administration last month urged the Court not to hear the case; a group of computer scientists represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation urged the opposite, stating in an amicus brief that "Oracle and others will have an unprecedented and dangerous power over the future of innovation." According to the scientists — including the author of MS-DOS and the developer of ARPANET — the ruling will allow powerful tech companies to block developers from making programs that work with their APIs, even if those programs do not use any actual code from the API.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.