Oracle-Google trial could result in partial verdict or even mistrial

Oracle-Google trial could result in partial verdict or even mistrial

Summary: The court is mulling the possible options if the jury in the Oracle-Google trial cannot come to a unanimous verdict on charges of copyright infringement.

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SAN FRANCISCO -- "Hope for the best, plan for the worst." That's where Judge William Alsup says we are while we wait for a verdict on the copyrights segment of the Oracle-Google at the U.S. District Court on Friday morning.

On Thursday afternoon, the jury returned with the eighth note issued during the deliberation period, which asked, "What happens if we can’t reach a unanimous decision and people are not budging?"

To recall, the jury began deliberating on Monday afternoon after lawyers from both Oracle and Google offered their closing statements for the first segment of this trial.

At an 8AM hearing on Friday, Judge Alsup asked attorneys from both Oracle and Google for their thoughts about where to proceed from here.

Once again, both sides have polarizing views on this, citing precedent cases in both directions. On the one hand, Oracle wants to proceed to phase two of the trial if the jury can come to a partial verdict on the four questions they must answer on the verdict form.

Based on the questions already asked from the jury, it looks as though the jurors have found that Google did copy Oracle's intellectual property, but they might be still torn on whether or not it is a case of fair use.

However, Google's counsel Robert Van Nest made it crystal clear that Google wants all or nothing -- meaning a complete verdict or a mistrial.

"We do need to be careful about what we get," Van Nest cautioned. "If the jury fails to resolve an issue, the only correct result there is a mistrial on that divisible question and move on to the patent phase."

That's becoming a more possible roadmap in this case by the hour. Oracle's lead attorney Michael Jacobs cited a previous federal case that suggested five possible outcomes:

  • Resubmit the issues for further deliberations
  • Ask the parties to forgo unanimity and go with a majority vote
  • Enter partial judgment
  • Declare a mistrial
  • Order a partial retrial to cover those issues not unanimously agreed upon

Jacobs was very wary of the last option, plotting an alternative could be if Oracle doesn't win copyright liability, we could go through the patent portion of the trial followed by a retrial on unresolved issues and new damages.

"That seems like it would be quite a journey," Jacobs sighed.

After hearing enough from both sides, Judge Alsup responded soundly with his arms folded, "I'm going to receive a partial verdict. I'm not going to let this court go to waste."

Nevertheless, the judge added quickly that isn't his official ruling yet and that he would look over the precedent cases provided by both legal teams.

Among other minor spats over issues heading into the next phase of the trial, Jacobs brought up the sticky subject of the testimony of former Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz again.

Oracle is trying to preclude Schwartz's testimony from the next phase of the trial with a motion it filed at midnight on Friday morning. Yet at the hearing, Van Nest snapped back that he hadn't seen the motion yet. Thus, Judge Alsup gave Google a deadline of 6PM on Saturday to file a response.

Although Van Nest said we won't see any "celebrities" in phase two, he did say it was a possibility that they would be calling Schwartz back to the stand, quipping "that is if you consider Mr. Schwartz a celebrity."

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15 comments
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  • Justice delayed is justice denied

    Looks like the jury is going to deadlock and allow Google to continue to infringe on Oracle's intellectual property.
    Your Non Advocate
    • Based on your thinking.....

      Sounds like you have your mind made up irrespective of the actual outcome. If this is the case, why are you even reading / posting?
      rhonin
      • I am not on the jury nor the judge

        Did you not already form your own opinion of the matter, or are you waiting for the outcome as the basis of your opinion?
        Your Non Advocate
  • I've been telling all along: Oracle will lose

    responsible people in the jury can't let the greedy Elli$on steal google's hard earn money.
    The Linux Geek
    • Copy and paste does not equal hard work

      Sun did the hard work and oracle paid them nicely for it.
      Johnny Vegas
      • Not quite.....

        Oracle saw a potential "gold mine" and proceeded to buy Sun. That is the way Ellison works.
        rhonin
      • Few Lines Out of Millions?

        Few lines (9 total) were actually verbatim copied and that by a former Sun employee who donated his ported Python API to Java (and it's been removed since). The rest of the 37API's were not taken from Sun, but cloned from Apache Harmony. Who were deemed free to use those Java API's without a license, since they couldn't call it Java without passing TCK.

        It's too late for Oracle to go back in time and close what Sun put out for Open Source. What happens to the Linux API's that are part of Unix then? Especially since Oracle were BIG supporters of Linux using all those API's in building Linux in the first place. What happens to all the Apps built for Android now? Do we suddenly have to delete Apps that sometimes can cost in the 100's of dollars, because they were made with Oracle's newly deemed Copyrightable determined API's?

        What about the just rendered EU decision in the higher Court of Justice Ruling? If this Judge decides he wants to make new case law, contrary to precedence setting case law like that and the past, it runs contrary to International agreements on declaring languages not (including their API's) Copyrightable. It'll turn this whole Software Development Patents and Copyrights fiasco into a Global World War!!!

        This judge is no dummy and you can bet he won't make a decision that's likely to be overturned on appeal almost immediately!!! .....otherwise the cost of this IP War will be on us the Taxpayers with literally 100's if not 1000's of Copyright Lawsuits destroying our court system. Software development will leave the country and it'll be the death of innovation for 100 years in the case of Copyright!

        All for the greed of a few ignorantly lame corporations! I vote NAY to me paying to enrich Oracle for their bad purchase decision in buying Sun in the first place. They've already stolen Millions of Dollars for our Tax Funded GSA purchases from them in the past and the cost of that lawsuit!!!! .....only Liars and Lawyers (one in the same) want language and API Copyrightability!
        KronJohn
    • How do you come to that conclusion?

      [b]Based on the questions already asked from the jury, it looks as though the jurors have found that Google did copy Oracle???s intellectual property, but they might be still torn on whether or not it is a case of fair use.[/b]

      Sounds like Google DID in fact copy Oracle's IP just as Oracle claimed. If the jury comes back and says that Google did it legally then all is good, if not then Google needs to pay Oracle.
      NonFanboy
      • I could ask you the same question...

        Other than a possible 9 lines of highly questionable code (that isn't even in Android anymore), I have yet to see any proof that Google copied anything from Oracle/Sun's Java. What proof have you seen?
        30otnix
      • @30otnix

        It's not what [i]I[/i] see but what the jurors and the courts are seeing... and from the text of the article it looks like the jury is seeing that Google did copy the IP. And if they did and got rid of it later that STILL does not invalidate the infringement so you saying "[i]Other than a possible 9 lines of highly questionable code (that isn't even in Android anymore)[/i]" is really meaningless.
        NonFanboy
      • The Judge told the jury to assume that APIs can be copyrighted.

        In actual fact, Judge Alsup is reserving the decision of whether APIs deserve copyright for himself [i]alone[/i]. So if the jury decides that Google has infringed, be aware that they are answering from a deliberately skewed perspective.
        Zogg
  • @RKing, the senario you propose, I believe, is..

    The result of the Judges' instruction to assume APIs are copyrightable. They are not and he has reserved a ruling to this affect because he wants to have options for a clear correct verdict given the layman nature of the jury. API copy did occur because it has to and that makes it part of the language which cannot be copyrighted. Google has a concern that because Oracle has unduly complicated this suit and made it too difficult to decide for normal people the only fair outcome is a mistrial not a partial which would put them at a disadvantage. And, of course, they (oracle) don't want Schwartz to testify.
    droidfromsd
    • That's just the point, exactly. API definitions have to be copied

      For anything to work, the API definitions must be stable and consistent. The judge told the jury to also assume that they were copyrightable. With that assumption, the jury has to find infringement, since implementing the APIs according to their definitions requires using (copying, if you like) the definitions.

      This is also very close to what was just adjudicated in the EU. The conclusion there (and the only sensible one IMHO) is that languages and language elements like APIs are not copyrightable.
      gbritton1
      • Keep in mind the reason for that instruction

        My take on the judge's instruction to assume APIs are copyrightable, is that if they then return with a verdict of fair use, then the judge doesn't have to make new law. If they return stating it is not fair use, the judge is then forced to consider the question of Copyrights as they pertain to APIs. In short, he'd rather not make new law if it is not required.
        30otnix
  • I don't get it

    How can it possibly be legal to copy a file, remove the GPL boilerplate and put on Apache boilerplate? How can it possibly be legal to study a copyrighted work, reimplement that work and not violate copyright? I'm no fan of Oracle, but sure wouldn't want to see Microsoft study the Linux kernel, make a "clean room" Micro-Linux and then release under any license they like -- or none at all. I like the GPL and want to see it enforced.
    THUFIR.HAWAT