In a civil trial that could profoundly affect the way software is created, deployed and licensed for decades to come, a 12-person jury in a federal court in San Francisco came close but did not render a decision May 4 on whether Google illegally infringed upon copyrights held by Oracle in the Java-Android intellectual-property case.
Jurors were instructed to answer four questions but only came to agreement on only three of them. The questions were:
- Did Google infringe upon copyrights in the use of Oracle's Java application programming interfaces, or was it fair use?
- Did Google infringe upon copyrights regarding the documentation of the Java APIs?
- Was there infringement of specific Java code?
- Did Sun/Oracle lead Google to believe that it didn't need license to use Java APIs?
The jury did not tell the court which of the four questions was preventing it from rendering a complete decision.
Presiding Judge William Alsup, seeking a unanimous decision, then advised the jury to take the weekend and "think about it" before returning to court May 7. He instructed them not to do any more research and to avoid reading accounts about the case in the media.
"Since there is hope of reaching a decision on that [final] question, we should take advantage of that hope," Alsup said.
Alsup, who has gained respect and admiration from those in the courtoom for his ability to nudge the slow-moving wheels of justice along as quickly and efficiently as possible, would like to move to Phase 2 of the case (patents) as quickly as possible. The case is expected to continue for several more weeks.
At issue will be two key patents that Oracle claims were also infringed upon by Google in its Android development. This portion of the litigation isn't expected to last nearly as long as Phase 1, simply because of fewer evidential documents.
Two More Phases to Come
Phase 3 will involve damages, if any are awarded.
In the case that was brought in 2010 and began April 16, Oracle charged Google with stealing 37 application programming interfaces from its Java software suite to help build its highly successful Android mobile device operating system. Oracle is seeking about $1 billion in damages and a possible injunction against Google using the software.
APIs, as they are commonly known, consist of software, specifications and techniques used to write and test software code for operating systems and applications. At the crux of the matter is whether software-development techniques are intellectual property that can be copyrighted. Legally, techniques are not considered intellectual property.