Google could owe Oracle Corp. billions of dollars after an appeals court said it didn’t have the right to use the Oracle-owned Java programming code in its Android operating system on mobile devices.

Google’s use of Java shortcuts to develop Android went too far and was a violation of Oracle’s copyrights, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled. The case was remanded to a federal court in California to determine how much the Alphabet Inc. unit should pay.

The dispute is over pre-written directions known as application program interfaces, or APIs, which can work across different types of devices and provide the instructions for things like connecting to the internet or accessing certain types of files. By using the APIs, programmers don’t have to write new code from scratch to implement every function in their software or change it for every type of device.

The case has divided Silicon Valley for years, testing the boundaries between the rights of those who develop interface code and those who rely on it to develop software programs.

Oracle said its APIs are freely available to those who want to build applications for computers and mobile devices, but draws the line at anyone who wants to use them for a competing platform or to embed them in an electronic device. It said it was entitled to $8.8 billion in damages from Google during the 2016 trial.

“The fact that Android is free of charge does not make Google’s use of the Java API packages noncommercial,” the Federal Circuit ruled, noting that Android had generated more than $42 million in revenue from advertising. It also said that Google had not made any alteration of the copyrighted material.

Officials with the two companies didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.



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