(Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court handed Alphabet Inc’s Google a major victory on Monday, ruling that its use of Oracle Corp’s software code to build the Android operating system that runs most of the world’s smartphones did not violate federal copyright law.
In a 6-2 decision, the justices overturned a lower court’s ruling that found Google’s inclusion of Oracle’s software code in Android did not constitute a fair use under U.S. copyright law.
Oracle and Google, two California-based technology giants with combined annual revenues of more than $175 billion, have been feuding since Oracle sued for copyright infringement in 2010 in San Francisco federal court.
Google had appealed a 2018 ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington reviving the suit.
The ruling spares Google of a potentially massive damages verdict. Oracle had been seeking more than $8 billion, but renewed estimates went as high as $20 billion to $30 billion, according to two people with knowledge of the situation.
Oracle’s lawsuit accused Google of plagiarizing its Java software by copying 11,330 lines of computer code as well as the way it is organized, to create Android and reap billions of dollars in revenue. Android, for which developers have created millions of applications, now powers more than 70% of the world’s mobile devices.
Google said it did not copy a computer program but rather used elements of Java’s software code needed to operate a computer program or platform. Federal copyright law does not protect mere “methods of operation.”
The companies also disputed whether Google made fair use of Oracle’s software code, making it permissible under the copyright law.
Reporting by Andrew Chung in New York; Editing by Will Dunham