Jury: Google infringed Java copyright, but we’re not sure it’s worth a $1 billion penalty

by: Bams SadewoMay 8, 2012
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Well, who can honestly say that they didn’t see this one coming? In the case of Oracle vs Java, the jury has returned a mixed verdict that will not please either of the sides. Although the jury has found Google to be in the wrong by infringing Oracle-owned Java copyrights, a unanimous decision couldn’t be reached on whether Google’s use of the Java APIs can be considered ‘fair use’ or not.

Judge William Alsup, who oversees the case, said that the jury’s decision to fault Google’s use of the nine lines of the “rangeCheck” code (which are identical to Java code) will be of little help in determining the victor if it fails to conclude on the issue of fair use. Since the deadlock between the jury couldn’t be broken, even after the jurors received more deliberation time over the weekend, the judge decided to move on with the next stage of the trial.

There were four questions that the team of jurors, which consists of five men and seven women, had to answer. Two of the questions were whether or not Google had infringed Oracle documentation copyrights – it’s a no for this one – and whether the copying of code was significant enough to warrant a full-on actionable infringement. The latter is the question upon which the jury can’t seem to decide.

The partial verdict means that Google won’t have to give in to Oracle’s demand to pay $1 billion in damages, since the infringement might still be considered a minor one. Moving away from Oracle’s initial stance of demanding just statutory damages, the company’s legal team now says that Oracle is entitled to a portion of Android profits, as a result of the infringement of those nine lines of code.

Responding to the decision, Google said that “fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin.” While Google looks forward to the decision of whether Java APIs are copyrightable or not, the search giant is certain that it will prevail. Given the result, Google has filed for a mistrial and a hearing of both sides is set to take place on May 10.

Meanwhile, Oracle is convinced that “the overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license and that its unauthorized fork of Java in Android shattered Java’s central write once run anywhere principle.”

The trial will now focus on the alleged violation by Google of another two Java patents. Bear in mind that the jury’s decision will only be used as deliberation points for the judge and the ruling will ultimately be issued by him.

  • Here is array of numbers, find the largest and smallest number in the array and pass their value to me. This is the oldest computer programming exercise in the book. A grade schooler could do it on a commodore 64. How does this obvious and trivial process get assigned to Oracle.

  • AppleFUD

    I really don’t see how a Judge, or anyone for that matter, can expect non-tech jurors to understand all the technicalities of such a case.

    Furthermore, the judge should have already grown a pair and made a ruling on whether or not APIs are valid for copyright — smart decision would be to follow the EU and say they aren’t because it’s ridiculous and allows for companies to monopolize ideas.

    Finally, this case is ridiculous IMO. Let’s see, Sun makes an open platform and tells everyone they can use it and only need a license if they want to be labeled as “java compatible” and officially certified, etc. . . Google thinks about it and says, no. . . we’ll do our own thing. Oracle now has Java and says, “well, yeah the platform is open but not the APIs”?!?!?!? Well, what friggin good is it then? But let us not forget that Sun said the APIs are just as open as the platform — that’s the tough aspect of open-source, Oracle! People can use it for whatever they want.

    This is as ridiculous as Google now suing Amazon over the Kindle Fire.