Oracle wins on infringement; jury stuck on Google's fair use argument

After deliberating for a week, the jury has returned with an initial verdict covering the copyrights portion of the Oracle-Google trial.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- Although the results were a bit of a mixed bag, the jury in Oracle v. Google ruled mainly in favor of Oracle in the copyright phase of the trial on Monday morning.

The five male and seven female jurors were unanimous in their answers to nearly all of the four detailed questions (see the questions and jury instructions below) supplied by Judge William Alsup to determine whether Google's Android mobile platform infringed on part of the Java programming language that Oracle acquired from Sun in 2010.

See alsoE.U. court rules programming languages not copyrightable Oracle-Google jury deliberations placed on temporary hold

Arguably, the most important question was the first one. To the question, "Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed the overall structure, sequence and organization of copyrighted works?," the jury said yes.

However, the jury was at an impasse on the second part of Question 1, which asked if Google proved fair use or not. Thus, Google counsel Robert Van Nest immediately moved for a mistrial on the copyright phase of the trial, citing precedent cases.

Google will make arguments for a mistrial on Tuesday and Thursday this week. Any debate over whether or not Google proved fair use must be answered before the damages can be determined. Furthermore, the judge still needs to determine whether or not APIs are copyrightable, based on the advice offered from the jury.

Google also issued the following initial statement immediately after the verdict was read:

We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that's for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims.

Oracle PR replied with these prepared remarks:

Oracle, the nine million Java developers, and the entire Java community thank the jury for their verdict in this phase of the case. 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. Every major commercial enterprise -- except Google -- has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms.

The decision came after the jury almost delivered a partial verdict on Friday afternoon last week. They were unable to agree unanimously on one of the four questions in the jury instructions.

At issue in this phase of the trial was whether 37 Java APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) were subject to copyright. Oracle argued that Google copied the APIs from the Java core libraries, which would render 11,000 printed pages on the specifications, into the Android core libraries.

Oracle's lawyers compared the creation of APIs to writing a piece of music, going further to say that API's are not just "ideas," but creative works that requires significant expertise and time.

Google argued that there was no copyright infringement because Google didn't copy any unauthorized Java code, and that the Internet giant made fair use of the Java language APIs in Android and that Sun publicly approved Android's use of Java.

The jury began deliberating one week ago after lawyers from both Oracle and Google offered their closing statements for the first segment of this trial.

Four days later 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?”

On Friday morning, Alsup asked attorneys from both Oracle and Google for their thoughts about where to proceed from here. While neither side was entirely in favor of a partial verdict, Oracle's lawyer Michael Jacobs acknowledged that could be a potential path. Robert Van Nest, Google's lead attorney, was resolutely against the idea, preferring a completely unanimous verdict or a mistrial for the copyrights segment of the case.

Nevertheless later that day, the 12-person jury sent a note revealing that they had come to a unanimous decision on all questions except one on which they were at an "impasse." Van Nest then concurred with Jacobs and Alsup to move the case along and hear the partial verdict.

The jury came close to revealing that partial verdict -- until the jury foreman acknowledged that only a majority of the jurors agreed to send that note while a few others remained on the fence, convinced that it might be still possible to vote again and achieve a unanimous vote by Monday. Alsup gave the jury the weekend to think about the impasse over one of the questions in hope of avoiding a partial verdict on Monday.

Without even a recess, Alsup sped proceedings along on Monday by moving on to the next phase of the trial, which will consider whether Google violated two patents associated with Java.

Below are the four questions that the jury had to answer in coming to its verdict. The jury's answers are highlighted in bold.

1. As to the compilable code for the 37 Java API packages in question taken as a group:

A. Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed the overall structure, sequence and organization of copyrighted works?

YES __________ No __________


B. Has Google proven that its use of the overall structure, sequence and organization constituted "fair use"?

Yes __________ No __________

2. As to the documentation for the 37 Java API packages in question taken as a group:

A. Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed?

Yes __________ NO __________


B. Has Google proven that its use of Oracle's Java documentation constituted "fair use"?

Yes __________ No __________

3. Has Oracle proven that Google's conceded use of the following was infringing, the only issue being whether such use was de minimis:

A. The rangeCheck method in TimSort.java and ComparableTimSort.Java

(Infringing) (Not Infringing)

YES __________ No __________

B. Source code in seven "Impl.java" files and the one "ACL" file

(Infringing) (Not Infringing)

Yes __________ NO __________

C. The English-language comments in CodeSourceTest.java and CollectionCertStoreParametersTest.java

(Infringing) (Not Infringing)

Yes __________ NO __________

4. Answer the following special interrogatories only if you answer "yes" to Question 1A.

A. Has Google proven that Sun and/or Oracle engaged in conduct Sun and/or Oracle knew or should have known would reasonably lead Google to believe that it would not need a license to use the structure, sequence, and organization of the copyrighted compilable code?

YES __________ No __________

B. If so, has Google proven that it in fact reasonably relied on such conduct by Sun and/or Oracle in deciding to use the structure, sequence, and organization of the copyrighted compilable code without obtaining a license?

Yes __________ NO __________

Your answers to Questions 4A and 4B will be used by the judge with issues he must decide. Questions 4A and 4B do not bear on the issues you must decide on Questions 1 to 3.


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