Google Guilty of Infringing Oracle Copyrights, Kinda!

By Peter Bernstein May 10, 2012

So the Oracle-Google patent infringement trial did not go on as long as advertised. As I wrote a few weeks ago, this spectacle was scheduled as a 10 week ordeal. As my colleague Julie Griffin documented earlier today, after a few weeks of mind-numbing testimony, the attorneys undoubtedly saw the glazed look in the jurors eyes and figured, why not give them a shot and see what they think. The jury deliberated for a week, notified Judge Alsup that they were at an impasse on one of the four items on Friday, were told to present whatever they had, and today had their say.

Like the Jewish celebration of Passover which just concluded, the centerpiece of this part of the trial was the jury making a decision on four questions. With a tip of the hat to my good friends at ZDnet, below are the questions and the responses highlighted in bold for those of you keeping score at home:

1. As to the compliable 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 __________

(IF YOU ANSWER “NO” TO QUESTION 1A, THEN SKIP TO QUESTION NO. 2.)

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 __________

(IF YOU ANSWER “NO” TO QUESTION 2A, THEN SKIP TO QUESTION NO. 3.)

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.

While I am not a lawyer, this looks like a split decision. Yes, Google infringed and should have known better, but the extent of the infringement, and hence the amount of damages, looks to be somewhat short of the financial knockout Oracle wanted to inflict.

Google, of course, immediately said it would appeal, and was confident it would prevail. Oracle obviously thanked the jury and looked forward to extracting not a pound of flesh but at least an ounce or two. I guess if you are scoring this round, it probably goes to Google on points since it is likely there is enough lack of clarity from the jury to form the basis for a spirited appeal. Plus, Oracle was in this to achieve a monetary and not moral victory.

So, on we go to the next phase, where the jury will consider if Google violated two patents associated with Java. I am glad I am not a juror. As shock-jock Don Imus likes to say, “This makes my hair hurt!” The real question at the end of the day is whether Oracle could prevail enough to upset the Android apple (pardon the expression) cart through a damage award or getting a probably impressive for mere mortal firms licensing deal (hardly putting a dent in the Google war chest actually), or by sending Google back to the proverbial drawing board relating to key operations of Android.

For those hoping this was the beginning of the end it looks like it is more the end of the beginning. Tune in next time for, “As the IP War of the Worlds Turns.”




Edited by Braden Becker
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