Home / Tech / A top Oracle exec says Google is 'virtually alone' in its Supreme Court battle over Java, downplaying IBM and Microsoft's support for its tech rival (ORCL, GOOG, MSFT, IBM)

A top Oracle exec says Google is 'virtually alone' in its Supreme Court battle over Java, downplaying IBM and Microsoft's support for its tech rival (ORCL, GOOG, MSFT, IBM)

Larry Ellison

  • A top Oracle executive said Google is “virtually alone” in its Supreme Court battle over Java, saying “the technology community is not supporting Google’s position. Not even slightly.”
  • Oracle Executive Vice President Ken Glueck also downplayed the parties that have publicly supported Google in the Supreme Court case, including tech giants IBM and Microsoft saying they have “commercial interests” in this litigation.
  • Glueck called Microsoft the “original sinner,” saying the tech giant had once engaged in anticompetitive practices against Sun Microsystems which created Java and was acquired by Oracle in 2010.
  • Google hit back at Oracle. “We saw a remarkable range of consumers, developers, computer scientists, and businesses saying that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no single company like Oracle should be able to monopolize creativity,” Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda told Business Insider.
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Oracle said Google is “virtually alone” in its Supreme Court brawl over Java, downplaying IBM and Microsoft’s support for its tech rival.

Ken Glueck, Oracle executive president and the tech giant’s point man in Washington D.C., said that contrary to public perception, Google’s position does not enjoy wide support in the tech community.

“There is a lot of chatter that ‘tech’ is supportive of Google’s position in Google v. Oracle,” Glueck said in a blog post on Monday. “But a closer inspection of Google’s Amici makes clear that the technology community is not supporting Google’s position. Not even slightly. Google appears to be virtually alone — at least among the technology community — in seeking to weaken copyright for software.”

Oracle and Google are set to face off before the US Supreme Court next month in a software copyright case that experts say could have a major impact on the tech industry. The 10-year-old battle centers on Oracle’s claim that Google stole critical parts of its Java technology for its Android operating system. Google rejects the claim, arguing that Oracle cannot own this type of code — known as APIs, or application programming interfaces — which allows programs to talk to each other.

More than two dozen parties, including IBM and Microsoft, filed briefs with the Supreme Court endorsing Google’s position. But Glueck dismissed these public statements, saying, “If you look at the leading Silicon Valley-based companies, exactly none of them filed briefs on Google’s behalf.”

IBM and Microsoft, he argued, have “commercial interests in this litigation.”

Sundar Pichai

Glueck called Microsoft the “original sinner,” saying the tech behemoth engaged in “anticompetitive conduct against Sun’s Java.”

He also said Microsoft supported Oracle’s position on this dispute in 2013 and previously supported “the copyrightability of “interfaces'” But the company is “now completely silent” on this issue and instead, its new brief focuses exclusively on fair use” (emphasis his).

“The entirety of the public record is clear that Microsoft is actually on Oracle’s side of this critical component of the case,” Glueck said.

It changed in 2015, he said, when Microsoft and Google forged a commercial agreement. 

“What changed Microsoft’s stance in this litigation was that commercial agreement,” Glueck wrote. “Microsoft’s position is as principled as that.”

Glueck also blasted IBM, quipping, “Before Codebreak,” referring to the controversy around allegations of cheating by the Houston Astros in Major League Baseball, “there was Jailbreak.”

He said “Jailbreak” was the name of an industry “scheme” led by IBM aimed at pressuring Sun Microsystems to change the way it licensed Java in order to boost Big Blue’s ability to use the software. “Oracle knows well IBM’s efforts here because we were part of the community,” Glueck said.

“IBM has a long history with Java, and we shouldn’t confuse IBM’s commercial and competitive interests with a new-found interest in the proper balancing of copyright protection for software,” Glueck said.

Google hits back at Oracle

A Google spokesman hit back at the Oracle blog post, saying the tech company’s position enjoys wide support in the industry.

“We saw a remarkable range of consumers, developers, computer scientists, and businesses saying that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no single company like Oracle should be able to monopolize creativity,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda told Business Insider.

Google’s position has been backed by different groups of technologists, investors and academics. One brief filed by a group of startup execs and advisers, including investors Esther Dyson, warned:

“Startups are under threat. … By holding that APIs — software interfaces allowing developers to access pre-written lines of code — are copyrightable, and use of them will rarely, if ever, constitute fair use, the lower court struck a blow against the interoperability copyright meant to protect — a blow that falls particularly heavily on startup companies.”

Got a tip about Oracle, Google or another tech company? Contact this reporter via email at bpimentel@businessinsider.com, message him on Twitter @benpimentel or send him a secure message through Signal at (510) 731-8429. You can also contact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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