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Is this copyright infringement case poised for further fireworks?

When litigation involves super-sized technology companies battling over software with marketing implications in the online universe, it's hardly surprising that corresponding dollar figures are high.

Like in the billions.

Just how many billions yet remains to be seen in the near wake of a judicial decision rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. A panel from that tribunal issued a ruling just last week that has industry insiders and commentators energized and buzzing with strong comments.

The fundamental case details can be briefly sketched. At the core, the matter involves Google claiming fair-use rights to certain Java programming elements that are owned by the Oracle Corp.

Google steadfastly claims that its use was well within legal limits. Company officials have maintained since litigation first arose back in 2010 that Google used only a scant amount of Oracle code to write applications for smartphones. The company states that doing so has benefited consumers.

Unsurprisingly, Oracle has a different take, arguing that Google trampled on fair-use thresholds, misappropriating a large amount of proprietary data to directly compete with it.

The appellate court clearly agreed with Oracle, reversing a lower-court win for Google in the process. Its ruling stated that the appropriation was "for the same purpose and function as the original in a competing platform."

Oracle now wants truly big bucks for the alleged misconduct, with some commentators saying that a previous demand of $8.8 billion could now spike upward to a much larger number.

Not everyone weighing in on the matter thinks it was rightly adjudged on appeal. Some critics argue that it unduly straitjackets fair use and constrains competition and consumer choice in the process.

The matter could eventually end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. We will keep tabs on any material developments for readers.

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