Coders Clash Over Cash

December 10, 2019

What do you get when two companies with market capitalizations totaling more than $1 trillion disagree on who rightly owns something? A decade of litigation costing untold millions and a date with the nation’s highest court for a mega-dollar battle.

The two titans in this scenario are powerhouse tech companies Oracle and Google. (You might have heard of them.) The “something” they are fighting over is code – more specifically, the code supporting Google’s Android operating system, which powers more than 2.5 billion Android devices worldwide. As you can imagine, that's a lot of software licensing fees to collect, and Oracle wants a slice of the Pie (not to mention the Nougat, the Marshmallow, and every other sweetly-named version of the system).

This fight dates back to 2010, when Oracle claimed that Google’s use of Oracle-owned Java code in the Android system was a violation of Oracle's copyrights. Google maintains that its use of the Java application program interface (API) qualifies as fair use because Android itself is free.

Who is right? We don't know, but we do know that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to take up the case. If successful, Oracle is seeking an amount that starts with the number nine, followed by nine zeros. That's code for a whole lot of money!

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