Trump administration sides with Oracle in clash with Google

The filing came on the same day Oracle founder Larry Ellison was to host a fundraiser for President Trump. But the timing appeared to be coincidental.

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco

U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco is backing Oracle in the company's long-running battle with Google over Java.

Photo: Getty Images North America

The Trump administration sided with Oracle in the company's long-running copyright battle against Google over its use of Java in Android, which will be heard by the Supreme Court next month and could have wide-ranging implications for the tech industry.

The solicitor general's amicus brief filing on Wednesday was no surprise. In the fall, the office, a division of the Department of Justice, urged the nation's highest court to let stand an appeals court ruling in Oracle's favor.

Get what matters in tech, in your inbox every morning. Sign up for Source Code.

"Petitioner copied lines of code verbatim from a rival software platform, inserted them into a competing, incompatible platform, and then marketed the infringing product," the solicitor general's office wrote.

Solicitor General Noel Francisco also asked to participate in oral arguments before the Supreme Court when it hears the case March 24. The government "has a substantial interest in the resolution of those questions," he wrote, and has participated in oral arguments in other copyright cases.

A Google spokesperson, Jose Castaneda, said Wednesday that the company had the support of a "remarkable range of consumers, developers, computer scientists and businesses (who) agree that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no single company should be able to monopolize creativity by blocking software tools from working together."

The U.S. filings came on the same day Oracle founder and Chairman Larry Ellison was to host a fundraiser for President Trump in Rancho Mirage, near Palm Springs, and as the president faced scrutiny for trying to influence other court cases. But the timing appeared to be coincidental; the government faced a Wednesday filing deadline.

Michael Barclay, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation who filed an amicus brief last month in support of Google, noted that in 2015, the solicitor general under President Barack Obama urged the Supreme Court to reject Google's request to hear the case, which has now been going on for almost a decade.

"I honestly doubt if Ellison and Trump are going to be discussing this," Barclay said.

The two Silicon Valley tech companies have been fighting over whether Google infringed on Oracle's copyright when it used Java APIs in the Android operating system. APIs allow computing programs to talk to each other, and other tech companies have sided with Google because they say the software industry relies on open use of APIs.

Oracle sued Google in 2010, accusing it of copying thousands of lines of Java code that eventually helped lead to Android's dominance and seeking almost $9 billion in damages. In an initial ruling in 2012, Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California concluded that APIs are not subject to copyright. But Oracle won twice on appeals, prompting Google to ask the Supreme Court to hear the case. The high court decided in November that it would do so.

Stanford Law professor Mark Lemley said intellectual property law has "traditionally not mapped neatly to political divisions." But some of Oracle's supporters make no secret of their partisanship. They include some conservative groups that have filed amicus briefs in support of the company — and against Google, which they accuse of liberal bias — in the past few days.

The Internet Accountability Project said in its brief that its mission is to "call attention to the economic and political harms caused by the activities of America's dominant information technology companies, including Google." The IAP was launched in the fall by former Republican legislative aides to oppose big tech companies and "hold them accountable for their bad acts."

Another group that filed a brief in support of Oracle is the Conservative American Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

Also submitting briefs in support of Oracle were, among others, journalism professors, news publications, book publishers, the Motion Picture Association and the Recording Industry Association of America. They expressed concern about protecting creative work and intellectual property.

In a statement, Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley said, "The amicus briefs make clear that to avoid significant consequences well beyond the software industry, Google's self-serving arguments and attempts to rewrite long-settled law must be rejected."

Those who submitted briefs in favor of Google include Microsoft, IBM, Mozilla, Red Hat, some tech trade groups, IP scholars and programmers. Vint Cerf, known as the father of the internet and now a chief evangelist for Google, was among dozens of computing professionals and pioneers who filed a joint brief.

"As computer scientists, amici have relied on reimplementing interfaces to create fundamental software," they wrote in their brief. Finding in favor of Oracle "threaten[s] to upend decades of settled expectations across the computer industry and chill continued innovation in the field."

The Supreme Court, which Lemley said has "given great weight to the views of the solicitor general in the past," is expected to make a decision by June.

If you search "Wordle" on the App Store right now, you'll find nearly a dozen copycat versions of the game.
Screenshot: Nick Statt/Protocol

On this episode of the Source Code podcast: Nick Statt joins the show to discuss the rise of Wordle, the subsequent rise of the Wordle clones, and why it’s so easy to copy a game. Then Ben Pimentel chats about the fight over Web3, why Jack Dorsey and Marc Andreessen are at odds, and the killer app for the future of the web. Finally, Allison Levitsky explains some of the big new future-of-work trends, including the four-day workweek and dog-walker perks.

For more on the topics in this episode:

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Greg Petraetis, SVP and Managing Director, Midmarket and Partner Ecosystem, North America at SAP

As businesses grow during the pandemic, they also encounter pressing challenges to maintain that success. Among them is the pressure to strengthen their digital backbone, which leads to the question: How can companies find the ideal technology provider suited to their evolving needs?

In the midmarket space, small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) often need support to buoy them through any choppy waters ahead. As a SaaS solutions provider, SAP has extensive expertise developing strategies to connect innovative companies with their customers.

“We’ve seen how so many SMBs want to become the next billion-dollar companies as they move from being innovators and disruptors to global leaders,” says Greg Petraetis, senior vice president and managing director, Midmarket and Partner Ecosystem, North America at SAP, in an interview with Protocol. “And we’re there to catch them along that trajectory and help them achieve that profitable growth.”

Keep Reading Show less
David Silverberg
David Silverberg is a Toronto-based freelance journalist, editor and writing coach. He writes for The Washington Post, BBC News, Business Insider, The Toronto Star, New Scientist, Fodor's, and several alumni magazines. He also writes for brands such as 23andme, Shopify and Bold Commerce. He has served as editor of B2B News Network, Canada's only B2B news magazine, and Digital Journal, a leading pioneer in citizen journalism. Find more about him at www.davidsilverberg.ca

Will there be China tech IPOs to watch in 2022?

After the DiDi chaos, Chinese companies are cautiously looking to return to the capital market.

If TikTok parent company ByteDance went public this year, it would undoubtedly become the biggest IPO of any Chinese company in 2022.

Photo Illustration: Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

As 2022 begins, the biggest question for China IPO watchers is: Will there still be any significant IPOs this year worth anticipating?

For them, 2021 was divided into two halves: The first six months were filled with ambitious Chinese companies listing overseas, culminating in ride-hailing giant DiDi’s IPO on June 30, but it was all downhill from there. In the wake of DiDi’s rushed IPO, Chinese regulators imposed harsh cybersecurity reviews on several companies that were about to go public. Others put their IPO plans on hold. Stock markets reacted accordingly: Alibaba, Pinduoduo and others saw their share prices slashed in half.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang

Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs WordPress.com, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool Parse.ly and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.


Will NFT backlash stop the blockchain gaming boom?

Few players seem to want NFTs. But that might not be enough to stop blockchain gaming from going mainstream.

NFTs in particular, and the broader blockchain gaming movement of which they are a part, have elicited a rare level of polarization among players, developers and large game-makers.
Illustration: fairywong/DigitalVision Vectors/Getty Images; Protocol

The non-fungible token debate has moved from the art world to the gaming industry, and it’s morphed into an all-consuming fight about the future of entertainment and what role, if any, the crypto movement should play in the way video games make money.

From microtransactions to crunch culture, the video game industry is full of unsavory business practices that persist in spite of widespread backlash among the general gaming audience and near-constant denunciation from outspoken industry leaders and critics. That’s in part because such practices are often lucrative or steeped in industry norms that are difficult or costly to change.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Tech workers want three-day weekends. It won’t be possible everywhere, but more companies are starting to consider it.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Welcome back to Ask a Tech Worker. For this recurring feature, I’ve been hitting the streets of San Francisco’s Financial District at lunchtime to chat with tech employees about how the workplace is changing. This time I asked about the four-day work week, that elusive schedule that companies like Bolt, Signifyd, Panasonic, Eidos-Montréal and Wildbit have adopted and a number of others have tested or considered. Got a suggestion for a future topic? Email me.

The four-day work week may be the next frontier for tech companies using work-life balance to compete for talent. Since the New Year, Bolt, commerce protection platform Signifyd and Panasonic have all announced that they’re offering four-day weeks to employees.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.
Latest Stories