Tech industry fears for cloud, throws weight behind Google in Supreme Court fight with Oracle

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A slew of tech companies and other organisations have filed amicus briefs with the US Supreme Court ahead of the justices’ pondering of Oracle’s patent and copyright case against Google.

Google has claimed that Oracle’s case – which centres on the search giant’s use of Java calls in its Android mobile OS – would upend the very nature of APIs. This would clearly have major implications for the software and technology industry in general and developers in particular. Google won an initial jury trial, but Oracle won an appeal.

The search giant filed its opening brief with the court last week, and yesterday 21 amicus briefs hit the court, joining six that were filed last week. None of these appear to endorse Oracle’s position.

Microsoft said that upholding Oracle’s position endangered the cloud. “Interoperability is also critical to today’s “cloud” model, in which files are stored not on local devices, but on remote, third-party servers that can be accessed from different devices and locations….Interoperability helps achieve the promise of the cloud: the availability of user data no matter what platform is accessing it. Without such interoperability, consumers would be ‘compelled to retain one platform…because their data is trapped there.’”


It added, “If, as in computing’s early days, every device had its own proprietary interface, one could never add a product outside of a particular vendor’s offerings to the system. But in today’s interoperable ecosystem, consumers generally can choose smart products based on their merits and functionality, without worrying about compatibility with their existing system.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)  EFF Special Counsel Michael Barclay said its brief urged the Supremes to reverse Oracle’s earlier appeal court win. “Treating the Java APIs as copyrightable gives Oracle, which stands to make billions from that decision, outsized control and monopoly power over the development of Java-compatible programs. Copyright law aims to stimulate creativity for the public good, not lock developers into a licensing scheme for the functional aspects of software”.@

Red Hat said its brief, which was filed jointly with IBM,  argued that “The Federal Circuit’s unduly narrow construction of 17 U.S.C. § 102(b) is harmful to progress, competition, and innovation in the field of software development.”

Other groups filing include Auto Care, representing auto parts OEMs.

It’s fair to say none of the amicus briefs comes out in support of Oracle’s position. Away from the core issue of the copyrightability of APIs, one group of academics expressed concern about the reversing of a jury verdict.

Meanwhile, a brief on behalf two foundations representing the legacies of artists Robert Rauschenberg and Andy Warhol filed a submission saying they don’t really care what the court decides regarding software, “But it should be careful not to suggest inadvertently that the same analysis necessarily applies to visual art, or in other artistic contexts such as literature or music.”

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