The back-and-forth legal battle between Oracle and Google over the extent to which copyright law protected the Java programming language swung back Tuesday in Oracle’s favor.
In the latest development in the eight-year case, a federal appellate court reversed a jury verdict that found Google did not infringe on Oracle’s intellectual property when using Java APIs to develop the Android mobile operating system.
The appeals court disagreed with that decision, ruling the fair-use provision that allows some copyrighted material to be used without paying royalties didn’t apply. The case was sent back to the lower court for a new trial to determine how much Google will have to pay Oracle.
Oracle sought $9 billion in damages as part of the lawsuit it first filed in 2010.
“The Federal Circuit’s opinion upholds fundamental principles of copyright law and makes clear that Google violated the law. This decision protects creators and consumers from the unlawful abuse of their rights,” said Dorian Daley, Oracle’s executive vice president, and general counsel, in a prepared statement.
Google partners celebrated a big legal win in May of 2016 when the federal jury in San Francisco decided Google legally used Java to build the world’s most popular mobile device operating system without paying a fee to Oracle, the software’s owner.
Oracle immediately appealed to the Circuit Court that issued Tuesday’s decision.
By that point, the case had already seen some wild swings.
A federal judge initially ruled that Java’s APIs couldn’t be copyrighted at all, absolving Google of any liability before the case was even presented to a jury. A circuit judge then reversed the lower court and sent the case back for trial.
Google later asked the Supreme Court to review the matter. The Obama administration, however, through a letter from the U.S. Solicitor General, advised the nation’s highest court to not intervene in the case.
Sun Microsystems, the developer of Java, released the programming language under a free software license in 2007. Oracle acquired Sun in 2010.
The case divided the tech community.
Hewlett-Packard, Red Hat and Yahoo came out on Google’s side, all petitioning the Supreme Court to review the case, saying it would be tougher for them to do business if APIs could be copyrighted.
Microsoft aligned itself with Oracle during earlier stages of the case, rejecting the idea that limits could be set on what aspects of software were acceptable to copyright