The Android operating system was developed by Google, and it is widely used in mobile devices including smartphones. During the development of its platform Google directly copied and incorporated 11,500 lines of computer code from the Java SE platform, which is owned by Oracle America. A decade-long copyright and patent litigation in multiple federal courts ensued. Since the copying was undisputed by Google, the litigation ultimately focused on the application of the concept of “fair use” in the context of a computer program. The dispute finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court in 2020. Justice Breyer’s decision for the court was issued on April 5, 2021, and it provides a detailed interpretation of fair use. Google v. Oracle America, 141 S. Ct. 1183 (2021). His decision provides useful guidance on the application of fair use to the utilitarian aspects of computer software.
As smartphones were emerging as a popular mobile device, Google sought to enter this market by creating a software development platform that could encourage the development of applications for these new devices. In 2005, Google acquired a start-up company named Android. Google’s business strategy was to build upon Android’s software to create a useful development platform that would attract software developers. The development of useful applications would encourage the use of mobile devices.