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Supreme Court refuses to hear Google's appeal in Java patent case

The decision curtails Google's efforts to avoid paying Oracle licensing fees for using Java code in the Android mobile operating system.

The Supreme Court spurns Google's appeal in a Java copyright case. CNET

Google has again come out the loser in a court decision that could cost it a hefty chunk of cash.

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that it will not hear an appeal from Google over a copyright case that could force the search giant to pay Oracle licensing fees for using the Java programming language, Reuters reported. After an appeals court decided in favor of Oracle last year, Google took its appeal to the Supreme Court.

Oracle cheered the court's ruling in a statement Monday.

"Today's Supreme Court decision is a win for innovation and for the technology industry that relies on copyright protection to fuel innovation," Oracle General Counsel Dorian Daley said in a statement.

Google expressed its desire to keep fighting.

"We will continue to defend the interoperability that has fostered innovation and competition in the software industry," a Google spokesman said.

Google had argued that Oracle shouldn't be able to claim a copyright on the basic Java commands, the Wall Street Journal said. But Oracle countered that the Java code was its own and was copyrighted following its acquisition of Java creator Sun Microsystems in 2009.

The implications of the case go further than Google possibly having to pay licensing fees and a potential $1 billion in damages to Oracle for the use of Java in the Android mobile operating system. The case brings to light the question of whether software developers can use copyright law to hold exclusive rights on basic code, a move that could limit the ability of other developers to build on that code.

"I think it's going to have a very chilling effect," James Grimmelmann, a copyright law professor at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, said of the original appeals court decision in 2014. "It says that, among other things, that if you build an app for one platform, and the platform owner rescinds access, you face copyright risks if you move the app to a different platform."

The Supreme Court decision is the latest development in the ongoing legal battle that began when Oracle sued Google in 2010, alleging patent and copyright infringement over the use of Java APIs (application programming interfaces) in Android.