Oracle - Google Trial Update: Filings and a Ruling

By Peter Bernstein May 10, 2012

Since I have been the one following the Oracle-Google infringement trial in San Francisco, I’d like to first thank all of you who have followed me on our coverage of the trial. Since there was a flurry of activity recently, it seemed like a good idea for a brief update as brick bats have now been hurled by both sides and Judge William Alsop has made an interesting if not compelling ruling.

What’s going on?

Here we go.

First, Google has filed papers asking for a new trial over Oracle claims that its Android mobile software infringes on copyrights that protect Oracle’s Java technology. As I reported previously, the jury in the case found Google guilty of infringement, but only “kinda.” This left Oracle miffed that it was not going to get the estimated $1 billion it is seeking for the infringement, and Google crying that justice has not been served.

Oracle’s legal team was not pleased. They came back with a salvo asking Judge Alsop to render his own verdict given the jury’s mixed message. The judge then responded he would not accede to this request.

To bring everyone up to date on this, the jury found Google infringed on the Java copyrights, but could not decide whether that was protected by the so-called “fair use doctrine.” This is a legal precept that holds there is permissible limited use of copyrighted works, leaving open the entire question of what is permissible. It would significantly limit Oracle's ability to recover a huge sum for the interferences cited because this would be a calculation based on statutory grounds and as Oracle has contended should also entitle them to a share of Google’s Android profits. In fact, you have to admire the Oracle legal team for saying they did not want all of the Android profits, just what is determined to be their rightful share. How generous of them.

Google took all of this as reason enough to file for a retrial saying there was no clarity on the extent of it alleged infringement, and further argued that for the Judge to now intervene would violate its constitutionally guaranteed rights to a trial by jury.

What’s next?

Judge Alsop wants the jury to hang in there without his intervention and probably (pure speculation on my part, and I remind everyone I am not a lawyer) will resonate with the Oracle argument that to retry the copyright issues would be expensive and time-consuming. They of course did not add that it might result in the same or worse decision. 

On we go to the patent infringement phase of the trial and then, barring hiccups, to a determination of damages since there will be some as things stand. I’ll be back at you when there is something dramatic to report. 

Who knew IP litigation could be such a compelling spectator sport?    

Edited by Jamie Epstein
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