WASHINGTON – Google and Oracle are heading to the Supreme Court. Finally.
The justices agreed Friday to decide whether Google violated federal copyright laws by using some of Oracle's Java programming language to create Android, the world's most popular mobile software.
Oracle is seeking $9 billion in a lawsuit that stretches back nearly a decade and has already reached the Supreme Court once, when it refused to get involved.
Oracle claimed Android violated its copyright on application program interfaces, or APIs – parts of the Java programming language that helps software programs talk to each other.
Google argued the fair-use provision of copyright law allowed it to use Java without paying a fee. It is supported by 15 friend-of-the-court briefs filed by other companies and trade groups, from Microsoft to the Computer & Communications Industry Association.
Oracle sued Google in 2010 for using parts of Java without permission in its Android software. A federal appeals court initially ruled in 2014 that Oracle could copyright the Java parts.
Google acknowledged it used 11,000 lines of Java software code, less than 0.1% of the 15 million lines of code in its Android software. But it argued that its use of Java was covered by rules that permit "fair use" of copyrighted material.
Ultimately, the federal appeals court ruled again last year that Google's use of the Java software "was not fair as a matter of law." It reversed earlier decisions and ordered a trial on damages.
The case has been closely watched in the technology industry because it could change how software gets built, through "open source," code that's made freely available, or with code that must be licensed.
Contributing: Jessica Guynn