Mixed Verdict In Google-Oracle Copyright Infringement Trial
The jury in the high-profile Oracle vs. Google trial delivered a mixed verdict on Monday, finding that Google did indeed violate copyrights in using 37 of Java´s “application programming interfaces,” or APIs, but failed to agree upon whether this use was protected under the so-called ℠fair-use´ provision of U.S. copyright law — a key issue in the case.
Without that determination, Oracle will be limited to only statutory damages ranging from $200 to $150,000 — far less than the hundreds of billions of dollars it had sought — and Google will not have to redesign its Android software.
After the jury read its verdict and left the courtroom, an attorney for Oracle seemed to suggest that the company is entitled to more than merely statutory damages as a result of the infringement, and should receive a portion of Google’s Android profits.
But U.S. District Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing the case, said the claim “borders on the ridiculous” based on the minimal amount of code infringed.
Oracle had argued in court that Google built its popular Android mobile operating system by stealing some of the technology from Java, a programming platform Oracle acquired from Sun Microsystems two years ago.
Monday´s contradictory verdict has left the case up in the air, and Google has already moved for a mistrial. Judge Alsup said he would hear arguments on the motion later this week.
Both companies praised the verdict, although many see it as a setback for Oracle.
“We appreciate the jury’s efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin,” said Google spokesman Jim Prosser in a statement.
“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 said “the overwhelming evidence” demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license for Java.
“Every major commercial enterprise — except Google — has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms,” the company said in a statement.
Shortly after issuing its verdict, the jury began hearing opening statements on the patent portion of the case, which is expected to last eight weeks. A third, and final, phase will determine any damages for which Google may be liable.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc., 10-3561.
Selected case documents and filings can be viewed here.