Oracle wins partial victory in Google trial


Oracle company logo is shown at the headquarters of Oracle Corporation in Redwood City, California in this February 2, 2010 file photograph. (ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS)

A federal jury in San Francisco ruled Monday that Google infringed on copyrights held by Oracle.

U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup ordered Google and Oracle to prepare arguments on that issue.

The jury had found that the programming interfaces in Android were very similar to those in Java in nine lines of code.

The jury was deadlocked, however, on whether Google’s use of the Java APIs fell under the umbrella of “fair use.” The case, which has been watched closely by the software industry, dealt with the question of whether Google was allowed to use the open Java programming language to build its Android platform without a licensing agreement.

In a statement after the verdict, Google 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.”

Oracle said that it was pleased with the decision. “The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license and that its unauthorized fork of Java in Android shattered Java’s central write-once-run-anywhere principle. Every major commercial enterprise — except Google — has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms,” said Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger in a statement.

The case is being decided in three parts: one to determine whether Google violated copyright, another to determine if the company infringed on Oracle patents, and a third to decide damages. Oracle has asked for around $1 billion in damages.

The victory is a mixed one for Oracle, however, with Google lawyers saying in the courtroom that they will file for a mistrial. The judge also has to rule on whether APIs can be copyrighted.

When Oracle lawyer David Boies asked for “infringer’s profits,” or a share of Google’s profits in addition to damages, Alsup said that was “bordering on the ridiculous.”

The Associated Press reported that without a decision on whether Google’s use was protected as “fair use,” Oracle can only go after statutory damages.

Those damages, the report said, range from $200 to $150,000.

Related stories:

Oracle, Google suit: Details of Google’s first phone released

Google denies stealing Oracle’s technology to develop Android

Google and Oracle to face off in court in intellectual property case

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.

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