Monday, May 07, 2012

Jury issues partial verdict in Oracle-Google case, but big question left unanswered

Oracle sued Google in 2010 over its use of the Java programming language and software tools, and on Monday, May 7, 2012, a jury of five men and seven women returned a partial verdict favoring Oracle. However, the jurors deadlocked on one critical question in the trial, prompting Google to file for a mistrial.

The jury found that Google did indeed infringe upon the overall structure, sequence and organization of Oracle's Java programming language. However, the critical question left unanswered, or rather, half a question, was whether or not Google made "fair use" of what it did infringe upon.

"Fair use" would allow Google to make limited use of the copyrighted material. To be sure, the infringed upon elements were not huge sections of Java code.

In other questions regarding the case, the jury foudn that as far as the documentation for the 37 Java API packages in question, Google did not infringe. As well, the jury found that Google did not infringe on English-language comments in and CollectionCertStoreParameters or source code in seven "" files.

Finally, the jury found that Google did infringe on the rangeCheck method in and ComparableTimSort.Java.

Sun open-sourced parts of Java to be used without a licensing agreement, but use of Java on a mobile device did require such a licensing agreement. To get around this stumbling block, Google created its own Java virtual machine to use on Android.

Since the "fair use" claim has not been decided upon, the two sides are pushing with their own motions. Oracle has motioned for the presiding judge, Judge William Alsup, to issue his own verdict. Google, as noted above, has motioned for a mistrial.

Judge Alsup will make his ruling on both motions later this week.

Google issued the following statement: "We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that's for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims."

Oracle had its own view of the matter, "[thanking the jury on behalf of] Oracle, the nine million Java developers, and the entire Java community," adding that "The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license" for using Java and that "every major commercial enterprise - except Google - has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms."

Without the "fair use" question resolved, Alsup told both groups of attorneys on Monday that there will be relatively little copyright damages for the jury to consider. Oracle claim in the case is for $1 billion in damages.

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