(Reuters) – The US Supreme Court on Wednesday considered whether Alphabet Inc.'s Google should be protected from a lengthy lawsuit from Oracle Corp. where it accused it of infringing on Oracle copyright to build the Android operating system that powers most of the world's smartphones.
The summary court, down a fair after Ruth Bader Ginsburg's death last month, heard oral arguments in Google's appeal of a lower court ruling that revived the lawsuit in which Oracle has sought at least $ 8 billion in damages. The arguments were carried out via teleconference due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A jury cleared Google in 2016, but the US Federal Court of Appeal overturned the 201
Oracle accused Google of copying thousands of lines of computer code from its popular unlicensed Java programming language to make Android, a competing platform that has damaged Oracle's business.
Google's lawyer Thomas Goldstein told the court that the disputed Java code should not be protected by copyright because it was "the only way" to create new programming language programs.
"Language only allows us to use these," Goldstein said.
But Chief Justice John Roberts grilled Goldstein about that argument, suggesting that Google would still have paid Oracle for a license to Java.
"Cr It may be the only way to get the money you want, but that does not mean you can do it, says Justice Roberts.
Justice Neil Gorsuch questioned Mr. Goldstein if Google simply had a backpack on Oracles innovation
He asked, "What do we do about the fact that the other competitors – Apple, Microsoft – have actually been able to come up with phones that work perfectly well without engaging in this type of copying?
Oracle and Google, two California-based technology giants with a combined annual revenue of approximately $ 200 billion, have been at loggerheads since Oracle filed a 2010 copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco. The outcome of the case will help determine the level of software copyright protection, according to intellectual property attorneys.
Google has said that shortcut commands copied to Android do not guarantee copyright protection because they help developers write applications to work across platforms, a key to software innovation.
Although the commands may be copyrighted, Google has stated that their use of them was permitted under "fair use" protection against copyright infringement, which may protect copying that transforms an original copyrighted work. Google has claimed that the copying was "undoubtedly transformative" because it resulted in "a whole new smartphone platform."
The Federal Circuit 2018 rejected Google's defense, saying "only a change in format (eg from desktops and laptops) to smartphones and tablets) is legally insufficient to qualify as a transformative use."
Oracle will reconsider its application for damages if it wins in the Supreme Court and the case is returned to a lower court, Oracle General Counsel Sa Dorian Daley in an interview, claiming compensation would exceed the approximately $ 8 billion previously demanded by Oracle, he said.  Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked if a decision in favor of Oracle would have the serious consequences that Google has predicted, noting that it has been several years since a lower court said that Oracle's orders deserved copyright protection.
"I am not aware that the sky has fallen in the last five or six years with that decision on the books, "said Justice Kavanaugh.
President Dona ld Trump's administration supported Oracle in the case and urged previous judges to dismiss Google's appeal.
The Supreme Court originally planned the argument for March but postponed it due to the pandemic.
The Court has eight courts rather than its full complement of nine. President Trump has asked the US Senate to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, his candidate to replace Ginsburg, with the US election on November 3.