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Jury renders partial verdict copyright infringement in Oracle v Google case

Posted: , posted by Scott H.

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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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posted on 07 May 2012, 13:48 5

1. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 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?

posted on 07 May 2012, 13:56 5

2. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 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.

posted on 07 May 2012, 14:04 3

3. remixfa (Posts: 14605; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

cool, thanks :)

posted on 07 May 2012, 16:52

9. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 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.

posted on 07 May 2012, 14:31 1

4. Pdubb (Posts: 248; Member since: 08 Aug 2011)

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

posted on 07 May 2012, 15:42 1

5. tedkord (Posts: 14734; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

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

posted on 07 May 2012, 16:50 2

8. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 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.

posted on 07 May 2012, 16:02 1

6. ivanko34 (Posts: 617; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)

API cannot be copyrighted in Europe

posted on 07 May 2012, 16:48

7. Scott_H (Posts: 167; Member since: 28 Oct 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.

posted on 07 May 2012, 17:23

10. dallas90733 (Posts: 36; Member since: 06 Mar 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.

posted on 07 May 2012, 18:07 1

11. gwuhua1984 (Posts: 1237; Member since: 06 Mar 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.

posted on 07 May 2012, 18:32

12. taco50 (banned) (Posts: 5506; Member since: 08 Oct 2009)

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

posted on 07 May 2012, 19:05 3

13. tedkord (Posts: 14734; Member since: 17 Jun 2009)

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

posted on 07 May 2012, 20:54

15. stealthd (unregistered)

Did you consider reading that to yourself first?

posted on 07 May 2012, 21:58 1

16. jroc74 (Posts: 6019; Member since: 30 Dec 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.

posted on 07 May 2012, 19:39 2

14. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5993; Member since: 22 Dec 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....

posted on 07 May 2012, 23:57

18. ardent1 (Posts: 2000; Member since: 16 Apr 2011)

Another case of the pot calling the kettle black.

posted on 07 May 2012, 22:57 2

17. parkwaydr (Posts: 572; Member since: 07 Sep 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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