Oracle v. Google jury still stuck on understanding patent claims

The Oracle v. Google jury still looks lost in deliberations over a verdict in the patent phase of the lawsuit.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Based on the questions coming out of the deliberation room, it looks like the jury in Oracle v. Google is going in circles.

Now down to 10, the jurors have been deliberating over a verdict in the second phase of the trial concerning claims of patent infringement since closing arguments last Tuesday. However, what progress they have made since then is debatable.

The jury returned with a handful of more questions at the U.S. District Court of Northern California on Monday morning, and most of them readdressed issues they had last week -- namely over what constitutes a symbolic reference in U.S. Patent No. RE38,104 and the definition of memory in regards to U.S. Patent No. 6,061,520.

Here were the big questions that the jury asked on Monday:

  • For purposes of determining claim language on '520, is stack synonymous with memory? If so, is the definition of memory confined to stack?
  • Regarding the symbolic reference issue in '104 claim, does the resolution of symbolic references need to happen immediately?
  • Or can the instructions can be considered to contain a symbolic reference by virtue of the linking of numeric references that happen first followed by resolution?
  • Can we determine a numeric reference in the instructions to become a symbolic because of what happens downstream?

The '520 one was addressed the most quickly and concisely. Oracle counsel Michael Jacobs advised that the answer should be no and that the definition of memory should not be confined to stack. Google attorney Robert Van Nest concurred to some extent. He acknowledged they're not entirely synonymous, commenting that all stack is memory, but not all memory is stack. Jacobs rebutted that the latter part might be confusing to the jury.

Nevertheless, Judge William Alsup made this really simple by just saying no to both questions on the '520 issue.

But for addressing questions about the '104 patent, it was apparent things were much more complicated.

Warning that this was not going to be a yes or no answer, Alsup told the jury that sometimes there are numeric references called out in claim language.

"In earlier instructions to the jury, I defined symbolic reference to mean a reference that identifies data by a name other than a numeric memory location of the data, and that is resolved dynamically rather than statically," Alsup continued.

He explained that if the computer instructions contain a numeric reference, then "it does not some how turn into a symbolic reference because of what happens downstream."

However, Alsup told the jury the question then becomes how do you determine if it is a numeric reference in the first place. He answered, "In determining whether the item is a numeric versus symbolic reference in the first place, you must consult the definition that I gave you of what a symbolic reference is."

Although he couldn't provide an exact answer to the jury this time, he reminded them that they could said as many notes as they wanted, and the court will do its best to answer them.

After the jury left the courtroom to continue deliberating, both Van Nest and Jacobs voiced their objections to the instructions that Alsup provided about the '520 patent.

Saying he was pointing his fingers at both parties here, Alsup retorted by telling the lawyers that patent suits are not as easy as they might have thought when the lawsuit started, but that we're going to do the best we can with the jury system in place.

To whomever loses this case, Alsup concluded, "Too bad for you. You'll have to take it up with the Federal Circuit."

Oracle v. Google: Special Verdict Form for Patent Phase


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