Google Did Not Infringe Oracle Patents: Jury

 
 
By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-05-23 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The jury in the Oracle vs. Google case came back with a unanimous verdict that Google did not infringe any of Oracle’s patents. The judge in the case dismissed the jury, but still has to decide on leftover issues from the copyright phase of the trial.

After giving Oracle a bit of a win in round one of the case, a federal jury found in favor of Google in Round 2, absolving the search giant of infringing on Oracle€™s Java patents.

The San Francisco jury unanimously said that Google did not infringe on two Java patents that Oracle had asserted in the case€”U.S. Patent No. RE38,104 and U.S. Patent No. 6,061,520. Oracle initially filed the lawsuit in August 2010 claiming Google had violated seven of its patents, but in the end only asserted two at trial. In fact, Oracle later offered to stay or dismiss all of its patent claims in favor of an early copyright trial.

Oracle€™s win in the case came in the copyright phase of the trial, where the jury found that Google infringed on Oracle€™s copyrights, albeit for a small amount of code. And with that being the case, Oracle may not be able to recoup as much as it hoped in damages.

After the verdict was read, U.S. District Judge William Alsup of the federal District Court of Northern California, dismissed the jury. The jury was to be on hand for a third phase of the trial, the damages phase, but the judge let them go at the end of the patent phase of the trial.

€œThere won't be a need for this jury to discuss damages since the copyright liability issues identified thus far will be postponed until the liability issue concerning the asserted Java APIs has been decided,€ said Florian Mueller, author of the FOSS Patents blog and a consultant to Oracle.

Judge Alsup said he would be deciding on a copyright issue in the case within a week. He also said this was the longest civil trial he had ever been a part of.

In a statement following the verdict, Google said: €œToday's jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle's patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem.€

In its own statement, Oracle said: "Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java. We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java's core write once, run anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the 9 million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility."

Overall, €œthe patent claims had been narrowed down significantly, so it was unlikely that Oracle was going to get a great deal,€ said IDC analyst Al Hilwa. €œI think there is an opportunity missed by both these vendors to forge a single ecosystem out of Java and Android. Google clearly was attracted to the Java ecosystem, but the copyright lawsuit risks fragmenting Java in the long run if parallel implementations proliferate.€

The case, though centered on intellectual property, may in the end actually boil down to €œego, money and power,€ as Java creator James Gosling asserted when the case was initially filed. Indeed, high-powered, money-laden egos were a key part of this trial, with the likes of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Google CEO Larry Page, former Sun Microsystems CEOs Scott McNealy and Jonathan Schwartz, and Google chairman Eric Schmidt making appearances on the witness stand.

Yet intellectual property and how it is interpreted in the software industry remains a key part of this case and has ramifications for the industry, depending on how APIs are positioned in the case. At the core of the case is whether APIs are copyrightable. And Judge Alsup must make that determination in a decision that could be far-reaching for the software industry.


 
 
 
 
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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