Google and Oracle have been going at it for weeks now over both patent and copyright infringement claims made by the latter company. At least one issue is settled, though, as the jury on the case has decided that Google did not infringe any of Oracle's patents with Android. This is only a small part of Oracle's assault on Google. The larger issue is on the matter of copyright infringement, but at least on the patent issue, Google seems to be in the clear.
It's been a long road to get here, as the jury has been debating the matter for at least a week. During that time, the jury went through several rounds of questions to clarify the intensely technical topics at hand. At one point, Judge Aslup even had to have words with the lawyers, as neither could agree on how to phrase a question posed to the jurors. The deliberations went on for so long that the judge and lawyers all agreed if the jury hadn't come up with an answer by 1pm Wednesday (read: pretty much now), the case would've been postponed until after the Memorial Day Weekend.
The Bigger Picture
Since the jury found that neither of the two patents in question were infringed, though, the case will obviously not move on to the damages phase, which should be a relief for Google. The internet giant isn't out of the woods yet, though. The bigger question is whether or not Google's infringement of Oracle's copyright on the structure, sequence, and organization (SSO) of 37 Java APIs (which the company was found guilty of) qualified as fair use. The jury was unable to return a decision on this point, so this is still a little up in the air and the decision will likely be appealed by Oracle.
First, though, the judge still needs to decide whether the SSO of the APIs is even copyrightable in the first place. Depending on how the judge comes down on this decision, Oracle has a couple options to pursue in getting its big payday from Google. If the judge does find that the SSOs are copyrightable, Oracle will bundle a couple other minor infringement charges in with the SSO charges to be taken to a new trial or appeal. Oracle would, of course, prefer this route as it would give the company a second chance to get a firm verdict on the fair use issue. If the company could prove that the already-established infringement was, in fact, not covered under fair use, it could get a much bigger payout than it would if the trial went to the damages phase as is. If the judge decided the SSOs were not copyrightable, however, the two much more minor counts of infringement (related to nine lines of rangeCheck code and eight decompiled Java files) would net Oracle statutory damages of up to $150,000 each. Clearly Oracle is hoping to get more than $300k for its troubles.
Of course, that's not to say that any of this is likely to be over any time soon. With so much on the line for Oracle, you can count on an appeal happening no matter what the verdict ends up being because, let's be real, Oracle isn't getting the verdict it wants the first time around. Oracle would prefer that the courts say that Google is a big fat stealer and that the entire success of Android is due to the infringed copyrighted works, and so clearly Oracle deserves a ton of that sweet Android money. Unfortunately, for Oracle, it's not quite so simple.