Members of jury in the Oracle-Google Java-Android legal spat are reported to be tantalizingly close to a verdict on the copyright phase of the trial, but remain deadlocked on one question.
That means the copyright verdict, of what is likely to be one of the most followed technology lawsuits in history, has been pushed off to Monday. Judge William Alsup told the jury to come back on Monday to resolve the remaining question.
The verdict will bring to closure a drawn-out, protracted legal battle between Oracle Corp. and Google Inc. over the use of Java in the popular Android operating system. Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google in mid-2010, alleging copyright and patent infringement and $6.1 billion in damages. Google denied any wrongdoing on its part, and filed patent invalidation requests with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which resulted in several of the Oracle patents getting invalidated.
While the amount in damages has been constantly decreasing as the case has progressed, neither Oracle nor Google have been willing to budge on their positions.
The trial finally went to court and a jury and began on April 16. After days of courtroom hearings and back and forth between the lawyers and various witnesses, the proceedings closed on April 27, and the jury started delibrating the issue on Monday, April 30.
But instead of requiring one and a half days to deliver the verdict, as Judge Alsup had predicted at one point, the jury seemed to be painfully stretched out about the case. On Thursday afternoon, a juror sent a note—the jury’s eighth note—asking what would happen if the jury could not come to an unanimous agreement on the questions posed by the judge. Judge Alsup sent them back for the day and asked them to continue delibrating on Friday.
On Friday, the jury seemed closer to a verdict, saying that they had reached a unanimous decision on three of the four questions, but remained deadlocked on one question. Judge Alsup sent them back home, asking them to come in on Monday to continue discussing the final question. Careb Garling of Wired News quoted Alsup as saying, “Since there is hope of reaching that question, we should take advantage of that hope.”
The four questions that the judge posed to the jury came at the end of a gruelling two weeks of testimony, examination and cross-examination at the trial. The first question, as posed by the Judge, revolves around whether Oracle has “proven that Google has infringed the overall structure, sequence and organization of copyrighted works,” and if so, whether Google’s use of it constituted fair use. The second question is similar, but around the issue of documentation, and the third one, whether code in certain files was copied and if so, whether it was “de minimis” (small enough to be neglected).
Meanwhile, Oracle and Google lawyers already started wrangling over the next phase of the trail—the patent phase. Judge Alsup asked whether Oracle CEO Larry Ellison would be returning to take the stand, and if there would be any “star turnouts.” Both lawyers replied in the negative, though Google lawyer Robert Van Nest wondered aloud whether former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz could be considered a “star.”
Schwartz had earlier testified in favor of Google at the trial, stating that Google had the right to use portions of the Java API as long as they did not call the final product Java. Oracle’s lawyers, led by Marc Jacobs, want to exclude him from testimony in the patent phase, while Google’s legal team want an e-mail from former Sun employee Tim Lindholm dropped.The judge has also asked both parties to provide him with previous trial literature on copyright in regards to software, particularly in regards to the European court ruling just this past week that software and APIs could not be copy-righted. A European court, in a case involving software giant SAS, had ruled that APIs were not copyrightable and that other companies had the right to reverse-engineer a black box product to reproduce necessary functionality, subject to certain conditions.