Google infringed on Oracle copyrights, jury finds

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SAN FRANCISCO — A federal jury on Monday found that Google’s (GOOG) popular Android mobile software infringes on copyrights held by tech rival Oracle (ORCL), but it deadlocked on the question of whether Google was excused under the legal concept of “fair use.”

While rejecting some allegations brought by Oracle, the jury found that the code in two files and the structure and design of certain elements in Android, known as Application Programming Interfaces or APIs, were substantially similar to APIs used in Oracle’s copyrighted Java programming tools.

But jurors were unable to reach a unanimous verdict on Google’s argument that using the APIs was justified under a legal concept that permits “fair use” of short excerpts from a copyrighted work under certain circumstances.

That leaves a mixed result in the case: Google’s attorney immediately moved for a mistrial on the API question, which is key to the bulk of Oracle’s claim for nearly $1 billion in damages. U.S. District Judge William Alsup asked for both sides to file arguments on that motion later this week, but he did not say when he will rule.

Alsup is also considering a separate

motion by Oracle to deliver his own finding on the “fair use” question. Unless the judge rules in Oracle’s favor on that motion, Alsup told attorneys Monday, there will be relatively little copyright damages for the jury to consider.

The judge ordered both sides to proceed Monday with the second phase of the case, in which they will focus on Oracle’s allegations that Android also violated Java patents. The issue of damages won’t be considered until the third phase of the trial.

In a statement, 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, meanwhile, issued a statement thanking the jury on behalf of “Oracle, the nine million Java developers, and the entire Java community.”

Her statement added: “The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license” for using Java and that “every major commercial enterprise — except Google — has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms.”

Jurors had deliberated for nearly a full week before announcing their findings, in a case that pits two of Silicon Valley’s most powerful companies against each other. As an indication of the complex legal and technical issues at stake, the jury was asked to answer four questions, each with multiple parts, on their verdict form.

While they split over the first question concerning APIs and fair use, the jurors voted unanimously against Oracle on a second question regarding Oracle’s allegations of infringement by some of the Android documentation, or English-language comments that are included in the software program as a reference guide for developers.

On a third question, the jury sided with Oracle in finding Oracle proved a relatively small amount of Android code, in two files, infringed on Java because it was copied almost verbatim. Google had argued that the amount of code was so minimal that it did not represent infringement. But the jury rejected similar allegations from Oracle regarding some copied lines of code in several other files.

Jurors also gave a mixed verdict on the final question of the verdict form, which the judge had described as an advisory question that will help him make his own rulings in the case.

On that question, jurors agreed that Google proved that Oracle and Sun Microsystems, which originally created Java, made public statements that led Google to conclude it didn’t need a license for using Java. However, in the same question, the jury said Google failed to prove that it “reasonably relied” on the statements from Oracle and Sun executives.

Contact Brandon Bailey at 408-920-5022 or follow him at

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