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.


How the internet got privatized and how the government could fix it

Author Ben Tarnoff discusses municipal broadband, Web3 and why closing the “digital divide” isn’t enough.

The Biden administration’s Internet for All initiative, which kicked off in May, will roll out grant programs to expand and improve broadband infrastructure, teach digital skills and improve internet access for “everyone in America by the end of the decade.”

Decisions about who is eligible for these grants will be made based on the Federal Communications Commission’s broken, outdated and incorrect broadband maps — maps the FCC plans to update only after funding has been allocated. Inaccurate broadband maps are just one of many barriers to getting everyone in the country successfully online. Internet service providers that use government funds to connect rural and low-income areas have historically provided those regions with slow speeds and poor service, forcing community residents to find reliable internet outside of their homes.

Keep Reading Show less
Aditi Mukund
Aditi Mukund is Protocol’s Data Analyst. Prior to joining Protocol, she was an analyst at The Daily Beast and NPR where she wrangled data into actionable insights for editorial, audience, commerce, subscription, and product teams. She holds a B.S in Cognitive Science, Human Computer Interaction from The University of California, San Diego.

Businesses are evolving, with current events and competition serving as the catalysts for technology adoption. Events from the pandemic to the ongoing war in Ukraine have exposed the fragility of global supply chains. The topic of sustainability is now on every board room agenda. Industries from manufacturing to retail and everything in between are exploring the latest innovations like process automation, machine learning and AI to identify potential safeguards against future disruption. But according to a recent survey from Boston Consulting Group, while 80% of companies are adopting digital solutions to navigate existing business challenges or opportunities like the ones mentioned, only about 30% successfully digitally transform their business.

For the last 50 years, SAP has worked closely with our customers to solve some of the world’s most intricate problems. We have also seen, and have been a part of, rapid accelerations in technology in response. Across industries, certain paths have emerged to help businesses manage the unexpected challenges over the last few years.

Keep Reading Show less
DJ Paoni

DJ Paoni is the President of SAP North America and is responsible for the strategy, day-to-day operations, and overall customer success in the United States and Canada. Dedicated to helping customers become best-run businesses, DJ has established himself as a trusted advisor who places a high priority on their success. He works with many of SAP North America's 155,000 customers and helps them adopt business and technology best practices across 25 different industries.


How I decided to exit my startup’s original business

Bluevine got its start in factoring invoices for small businesses. CEO Eyal Lifshitz explains why it dropped that business in favor of “end-to-end banking.”

"[I]t was a realization that we can't be successful at both at the same time: You've got to choose."

Photo: Bluevine

Click banner image for more How I decided series

Bluevine got its start in fintech by offering a modern version of invoice factoring, the centuries-old practice where businesses sell off their accounts receivable for up-front cash. It’s raised $767 million in venture capital since its founding in 2013 by serving small businesses. But along the way, it realized it was better to focus on the checking accounts and lines of credit it provided customers than its original product. It now manages some $500 million in checking-account deposits.

Keep Reading Show less
Ryan Deffenbaugh
Ryan Deffenbaugh is a reporter at Protocol focused on fintech. Before joining Protocol, he reported on New York's technology industry for Crain's New York Business. He is based in New York and can be reached at rdeffenbaugh@protocol.com.

The Roe decision could change how advertisers use location data

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restricting use of location data. But that may be changing.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on Friday, the likelihood for location data to be used against people suddenly shifted from a mostly hypothetical scenario to a realistic threat. Although location data has a variety of purposes — from helping municipalities assess how people move around cities to giving reliable driving directions — it’s the voracious appetite of digital advertisers for location information that has fueled the creation and growth of a sector selling data showing who visited specific points on the map, when, what places they came from and where they went afterwards.

Over the years, the digital ad industry has been resistant to restrictions on the use of location data. But that may be changing. The overturning of Roe not only puts the wide availability of location data for advertising in the spotlight, it could serve as a turning point compelling the digital ad industry to take action to limit data associated with sensitive places before the government does.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of RedTailMedia.org and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.


Russian cyberattacks against the US may still be coming, experts say

In response to strong sanctions and military aid to Ukraine, Russia was expected to launch disruptive cyberattacks against the West but never did. But a cyberescalation from Russia still remains possible, as soon as later this year, according to experts.

"I fear this is a 'calm before the storm' situation," said Chester Wisniewski, principal research scientist at Sophos.

Illustration: Nanzeeba Ibnat/iStock/Getty Images Plus

In the four months since its invasion of Ukraine, Russia hasn't intensified its usual pattern of cyberattacks against the U.S. and Western Europe in response to sanctions and Ukrainian military aid, as many expected. But that doesn't mean the risk of escalation with the West is gone, numerous experts told Protocol.

In other words, don't lower your shields just yet.

Keep Reading Show less
Kyle Alspach

Kyle Alspach ( @KyleAlspach) is a senior reporter at Protocol, focused on cybersecurity. He has covered the tech industry since 2010 for outlets including VentureBeat, CRN and the Boston Globe. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and can be reached at kalspach@protocol.com.

Latest Stories