Google infringed Oracle Java copyrights: jury

SAN FRANCISCO Mon May 7, 2012 6:34pm EDT

A woman walks past the Google Chicago headquarters logo in Chicago, March 20, 2012. REUTERS/Jim Young

A woman walks past the Google Chicago headquarters logo in Chicago, March 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Young

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc infringed some of Oracle Corp's copyrights on the Java programming language, a U.S. jury found on Monday after days of deliberation.

Oracle may have suffered a setback, however, because the jury could not reach a decision on whether Google's actions constituted fair use and were legally allowed.

The fair use question is crucial to determining damages. If Google's use of the Java programming tools is determined to be fair, the company would not be liable for damages in connection with some of Oracle's copyrights.

"There wouldn't be damages, at least on this part, if their(Google's) use was determined to be fair. If the fair use defense was upheld, they wouldn't be liable," said Edward Naughton, partner of Brown Rudnick LLP in Boston who is not involved in the case.

"That's why from a dollars and cents standpoint it's a pretty important argument. I think it's frustratingly inconclusive and we'll have to wait and see how it all comes to a conclusion," Naughton said.

The partial verdict in the high stakes lawsuit, which focuses on Google's development of the Android mobile operating system, was read in a San Francisco federal courtroom. The lawsuit, brought in August 2010, now moves on to the next phase: patent claims. A third phase of the trial would decide damages.

After Monday's verdict, Google's lawyers challenged the key jury finding on Java copyrights and moved for a mistrial.

Google says it does not violate Oracle's patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an "open-source," or publicly available, software language. The trial has featured testimony from Oracle Chief Executive Larry Ellison and Google CEO Larry Page.

Earlier in the case, estimates of potential damages against Google ran as high as $6.1 billion. But Google successfully narrowed Oracle's patent claims, so that the bulk of Google's exposure to damages now derives mostly from copyright claims. Oracle is seeking roughly $1 billion in copyright damages.

The main questions in the case revolve around Google's use of APIs -- application programming interfaces -- or a set of tools through which developers utilize the Java software language, and whether they can be copyrighted like software code.

"We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin," Google spokesman Jim Prosser said 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 in a statement that it welcomed the verdict and that "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," Oracle said.

Almost immediately after rendering the copyright verdict, the seven-woman, five-man jury began hearing opening statements on the patent issues. The trial, which began in mid-April before U.S. District Judge William Alsup, is expected to last at least eight weeks.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Oracle America, Inc v. Google Inc, 10-3561.

(Reporting by Malathi Nayak; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, Bernard Orr and Steve Orlofsky)

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Comments (7)
WJL wrote:
Is Google a chinese company? Why do it infringe or copy oracle’s designs? Do not be evil Google.

Ha! Ha! Ha!

May 07, 2012 4:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
ArghONaught wrote:
Reality is the jury does not understand computer software. Oracle probably bet this would be the case, and off they went. 30 years ago the defense lawyer focused the jury on whether “comments” started in column 70 per the original, or 72 per the exhibit to discredit claims it was copied, and the jury was buying it. A “smoking gun” was eventually found, defendant guilty, and damages assessed – but it showed how illiterate the jury was in technology.

May 07, 2012 5:24pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
JulsMan wrote:
Oracle is a bottom feeding parasite in the technology business. Time to get out of the way and let companies that are moving forward continue their good work. Larry Ellison is a greedy competitive pig … more interested in winning then in bringing anything of value to the market. What’s winning Larry? You already have all the money. Its just about keeping score?!? Under Sun, Java invited Google and IBM and an entire community to freely use it as a platform to open their hardware devices to a community of eager developers. It was free and robust and supported by huge community of forward thinking people. Now Oracle, with nothing more then money, grabbed Java only to corrupt and exhort the most successful platform since C++. If the government or jury even understood anything about this case they wouldn’t just rule against Oracle, they would remove Java from Oracle like an abused child and place it in the foster care of the open source community.

May 07, 2012 6:25pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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