Intellectual Property

Supreme Court Hears Google v. Oracle Case

Today, the Supreme Court heard Google LLC v. Oracle America, Inc., which was delayed by COVID-19. In a case that is more than a decade old, the Court must tackle a couple issues, including whether computer software can be protected by the Copyright Act and, if so, whether Google’s decision to copy over 11,000 lines of Oracle’s JavaScript for the Android Operating System is fair use.

The ALEC legal center filed a brief as a party amicus curiae. In the brief, ALEC highlighted the “positive impact of strong [intellectual property] rights and protections” for states. Broadly, the IP field in the United States “accounts for 45 million jobs and represents approximately 38 percent” of the country’s GDP. When the benefits to the economy are narrowed to certain states, “innovators in states like California, Texas, and New York hold more than 20,000 patents and copyrights in each state” while innovators states like “Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, and Colorado hold between 5,000 and 20,000 IP rights.”

The brief also pointed out that the Copyright Act unambiguously protects software and has since the mid-1970s.  Congress wanted to avoid any confusion so amended the law in 1980 specifically to provide a definition for software.

While the case is before the Supreme Court, the courts are not the proper venue to debate the technological propriety of a law. That debate should happen in Congress, and Congress has not reviewed copyright standards for computer software since the early 1980s. In so doing, Congress has ignored one of the recommendations from the Commission On New Technological Uses of Copyright (CONTU), which stated that Congress should periodically review the Copyright Act, looking specifically on the “impact of such legislation on competition and consumer prices in the computer and information industries.”

Any decision from the Supreme Court will have a significant impact on the innovation economy. The American economy—and the economies of states—all rely on solid, predictable IP protections. These protections have benefited states to the tune of billions of dollars in sales and associated revenue, investment, and millions of jobs.


In Depth: Intellectual Property

Innovation and the intellectual property (IP) often underpinning it are crucial drivers of human progress. Innovation saves lives, facilitates human connections that have even sparked revolutions and entertains and enchants people around the globe. Pharmaceuticals, computer operating systems, social networking sites and films are all tangible examples of the intellectual…

+ Intellectual Property In Depth