WASHINGTON—The Supreme Court ruled for Alphabet Inc.’s Google in a multibillion-dollar battle with Oracle Corp. over elements of Google’s Android smartphone-operating system, a decision that could weaken software copyright protections but allow developers more room to build on each other’s products.
The court, in a 6-2 opinion Monday by Justice Stephen Breyer, threw out a lower-court ruling for Oracle that said Android infringed its copyrights on the Java software platform. The high court said Google’s copying of some Java API code was fair use. APIs, or application programming interfaces, are prewritten packages of computer code that allow programs, websites or apps to talk to one another.
“Google’s copying did not violate the copyright law,” Justice Breyer wrote.
Oracle, which acquired the Java technology when it bought Sun Microsystems Inc. in 2010, accused Google of illegally copying more than 11,000 lines of Java API code to develop Android, which runs more than two billion mobile devices world-wide.
Oracle previously sought as much as $9 billion in damages from Google, though the company might have faced challenges in collecting that much in penalty proceedings had it won in the high court.