Design

Jury deadlock in Oracle's $1 billion copyright claim against Google

By Noel Young | Correspondent

May 8, 2012 | 3 min read

Google's Android software for its fast-selling mobile phones DOES infringe on copyrights held by technical rival Oracle, a jury has decided in San Francisco. But they couldn't agree whether what Google did was allowable under the legal concept of "fair use."

The jury, after a week's deliberations, threw out a number allegations by Oracle - but found that the design of certain elements in Android, known as Application Programming Interfaces or APIs, was substantially similar to code in copyrighted Java programming tools.

But was it justified under the escape clause that permits "fair use'' of short excerpts from a copyrighted work under certain circumstances? The jury were deadlocked on that.

Google v Oracle: the case goes on

Google's lawyer moved for a mistrial on the API question, which is key to the bulk of Oracle's claim for nearly $1 billion in damages, said the San Jose Mercury News.

Judge William Alsup asked both sides to file arguments on that motion later this week. He is also considering a separate motion by Oracle to give his own finding on the "fair use'' question. Unless he rules in Oracle's favour on that motion, he told lawyers , there won't be much copyright damages for the jury to consider.

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The second phase of the case, focusing on Oracle's allegations that Android also violated Java patents, will still go ahead next Monday. Damages won't be considered until the third phase of the trial.

A Google spokesman said: "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.''

An Oracle spokeswoman thanked the jury on behalf of "Oracle, adding: "The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a licence" for using Java and that "every major commercial enterprise -- except Google -- has a licence for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms."

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