Oracle wins partial victory against Google
Jury rules search giant did infringe some copyrights, but fails to agree on whether it made 'fair use' of Java IP
Published: 8 May, 2012
Oracle won a partial victory in the copyright phase of its court battle against Google, which it accuses of infringing its Java IPR in Android. The jury in federal court in San Francisco decided, after almost a week of debate, that Google had infringed Java copyrights, but it was unable to reach a unanimous agreement on whether the search giant had made "fair use" of Oracle's intellectual property.
The decision prevents Oracle from claiming damages for all but nine lines of computer code in Android, out of a total of 15m lines, ruled US District Judge William Alsup. Oracle has been seeking $1bn in damages. "There has been zero finding of liability on copyright, the issue of fair use is still in play," Alsup said.
Google lawyer Robert Van Nest asked Alsup to declare a mistrial, a request the judge said he would consider later, but in the meantime he ordered the second phase of the case, which concerns two patent infringement claims, to begin. A third phase will follow that, relating to damages, and the entire procedure is expected to last for eight weeks, which would point to a conclusion in mid-June.
The first stage mainly focused on claims of whether Google infringed copyright on various Java APIs (application programming interfaces). Part of the argument concerned whether such APIs are copyrightable at all, but the jury was not asked to decide that point. Instead it was asked to assume APIs were subject to copyright, and ruled accordingly - but Alsup will make the ultimate decision on the broad issue of API copyright towards the end of the trial, and could still rule in favour of Google's argument that copyright law does not apply here.
"We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin," Google spokesman Jim Prosser told ZDnet. "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."
Alsup also disclosed that Android generated a net loss for Google in all four quarters of 2010, despite bringing in revenues of $97.7m during the first quarter of that year. The judge had previously sealed an internal 2011 Google document containing Android's 2010 profit and loss numbers, but he read certain parts of it aloud in front of the court.
In another IPR showdown, Microsoft and Motorola Mobility yesterday made their arguments before a federal judge, James Robart, in Seattle. Microsoft wants the judge to rule that Motorola's request for 2.25% royalty payments, which could amount to $4bn a year, for H.264-related patents used in Windows and Xbox, is unreasonable. Since Motorola's patents are essential to the standard, such demands would break commitments to Frand (fair reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing rules for such IPR, argues the Windows giant. Motorola claims it offered the larger firm the same terms as everyone else.
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