Platforms and Interoperability in Oracle v. Google

12 Pages Posted: 2 Apr 2018

Date Written: March 27, 2018


Software companies, and startups in particular, rely on interoperability to build new and innovative products. Without it, developers would be at the mercy of proprietary platforms written in specific, rapidly obsolete computer languages and without the ability to create new and innovative products that are broadly accessible to consumers. The result of such a balkanized regime would be significantly less creativity — the very opposite of what copyright law is designed to achieve. The freedom to interoperate is particularly important in software copyright because copyright in software is more likely than other copyrights to confer control over a market.

The Ninth Circuit, like others, has emphasized the importance of interoperability in computer software copyright cases. It has repeatedly held that parties are free to copy the elements of a computer interface necessary to write new and different programs that work with the plaintiff’s existing program. The Federal Circuit will nominally apply Ninth Circuit law in Oracle v. Google. How it does so will affect the future of software innovation not just on the Android platform but in “walled gardens” throughout the Internet.

Suggested Citation

Gratz, Joseph and Lemley, Mark A., Platforms and Interoperability in Oracle v. Google (March 27, 2018). Harvard Journal of Law & Technology, Vol. 31, 2018; Stanford Public Law Working Paper. Available at SSRN:

Joseph Gratz

Durie Tangri LLP ( email )

217 Leidesdorff Street
San Francisco, CA 94111
United States

Mark A. Lemley (Contact Author)

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305-8610
United States

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