Jury renders partial verdict copyright infringement in Oracle v Google case

Jury renders partial verdict copyright infringement in Oracle v Google case
After a week of deliberations and much courtroom drama, the jury has returned a split verdict for the copyright portion of the Oracle v. Google case over Android. The jury found that Google did copy the structure and organization of Oracle's Java APIs, as well as a single line of code in the range-find method in the TimSort.java file. The jury found in Google’s favor that they did not copy the documentation for the Java APIs, nor any of the other English-language notes and descriptions of API functionality.

The key here is that while the jury found that Google copied the names and structure of the Java API (technically question 1-A), they deadlocked over the issue of whether that copying constitutes fair use (question 1-B). Without a ruling on fair use Oracle really cannot collect damages for it. At the request of Google’s lawyers, Judge Alsup has just ordered both sides to prepare briefs to comment on whether or not a mistrial will have to be declared on question one due to the split decision.

Even if the Judge allows the ruling to stand, the actual question of whether or not an API can be copyrighted is something he will be ruling on next week – the jury had been instructed to assume that APIs can be copyright for the purpose of rendering a verdict, to help prevent the need for a retrial. Ironically, a retrial may end up being unavoidable now.

In short, while many sites will be saying that the finding favors Oracle, it’s not clear what, if anything, Oracle has won here. Google conceded that the API names are the same, the issue is whether APIs can be copyrighted at all (which has yet to be decided) and if so whether this particular use of 37 APIs amongst several million lines of code constitutes fair use. Since the jury could not decide that, Oracle has really not won anything. In one way the ruling works against Oracle – with the ruling that Google did copy the API’s the judge must now rule on whether copyright protects the sequence and structure of API names.

No rest for the wicked though - the second phase of the trial, dealing with the remaining two patents that Oracle is asserting against Google, is scheduled to begin immediately.

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18 Comments

1. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

interesting jury findings. Kinda weird that they would go both ways in the verdict, but I guess they had their reasons. Is there any word on a time table for when they will decide on a mistrial or not?

2. Scott_H

Posts: 167; Member since: Oct 28, 2011

The mistrial briefs are due tomorrow, so Alsup could rule as soon as late tomorrow. My understanding is that the mistrial would only apply to the first question (that there was infringement but no decision on fair use), although if Alsup intends to rule that APIs cannot be copyrighted (which I find likely) he may disregard it, since another trial would then only be necessary if he was over-ruled by a higher court.

3. remixfa

Posts: 14605; Member since: Dec 19, 2008

cool, thanks :)

9. Scott_H

Posts: 167; Member since: Oct 28, 2011

I spoke too soon - hearings on the mistrial issue will occur tomorrow AND Thursday, so presumably we won't know about this until the end of the week now.

4. Pdubb

Posts: 249; Member since: Aug 08, 2011

Insightful decision. I would love to hear the jury's reasoning for why one(used the names) and not the other(fair use).

5. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

The headline in iBGR is, "Jury says Google infringed on Oracle’s copyrights"

8. Scott_H

Posts: 167; Member since: Oct 28, 2011

Yeah, there's a lot of funny stuff getting reported, but I think what says it all are the reports that at the end of the day (the court adjourned early today) the Google lawyers were cracking jokes and smiling, and Oracle's lawyers looked somber. In other words, winning the issue of "copying" without addressing fair use gets them nothing.

6. ivanko34

Posts: 617; Member since: Sep 04, 2011

API cannot be copyrighted in Europe

7. Scott_H

Posts: 167; Member since: Oct 28, 2011

API probably can't be copyrighted in the U.S., but the judge wasn't going to rule on it unless the jury found infringement.

10. dallas90733

Posts: 36; Member since: Mar 06, 2011

Outside of Android, do any other major OS use java?, maybe Google should buy WebOS. and leave all things java to Oracle mobile operating system.

11. gwuhua1984

Posts: 1237; Member since: Mar 06, 2012

I'm not understanding the reason why they would make decision separately on fair use and copyright. Aren't the two related in this case, Oracle is suing Google for infringement and Google is arguing that it's within fair use? If you're infringing, then it's not fair use. But if you can't decide whether if it's fair use, then copyright infringement would also be undecided.

12. taco50

Posts: 5506; Member since: Oct 08, 2009

Yet another case of google copying from others. I hope they get hammered with pay outs to Oracle for this.

13. tedkord

Posts: 17417; Member since: Jun 17, 2009

Do you ever get tired of being wrong, or are you just so used to it you don't even notice?

15. stealthd unregistered

Did you consider reading that to yourself first?

16. jroc74

Posts: 6023; Member since: Dec 30, 2010

When Apple is seen in the wrong in these types of cases....do you feel the same way? Inquiring minds wanna know.... And I suggest you read the entire article...or pay attention to some key phrases. In the end ..Google might come out ok.

14. Droid_X_Doug

Posts: 5993; Member since: Dec 22, 2010

@tedkord - it is muscle memory for taco. If Android appears in the article title, he immediately posts something negative about Android, without ever reading the substance of the article. taco might even be something of a targeted spambot....

18. ardent1

Posts: 2000; Member since: Apr 16, 2011

Another case of the pot calling the kettle black.

17. parkwaydr

Posts: 572; Member since: Sep 07, 2011

I love how these things work. "I didn't make this, but I bought the company that did, so I'm gonna sue you now because your really popular and profitable and I'm failing even though you've been on the market for years and ive never once had a problem with you, until now of course when you have money, and I don't."

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