Google vs. Oracle: Game. Set. Match?
The verdict is in on the Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) versus Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) patent-infringement case, with the jury having found Android not to be infringing on Oracle’s patents. Google is calling the verdict “a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem.”
U.S. District Judge William Alsup dismissed the jury, skipping the damages phase that had been originally scheduled, as the verdict left Oracle without any claim to damages. Had Oracle been able to pursue damages, confidential documents detailing how much money Google makes from its Android software might have become public.
While there is more to come, with the API question still pending, Oracle’s threat of an injunction against Android was the biggest cause of concern for Google, and without patent infringement, that part of the threat is forever off the table.
Oracle inherited the rights to Sun Microsystems’ Java programming system when it bought the company back in 2010. During the copyright phase of the trial, the jury ruled against Google on a question related to Java’s application programming interfaces, or APIs, which provide the blueprints for making much of the software work effectively. Though the jury found that Google infringed on those APIs, it was unable to determine whether Google’s infringement was covered under “fair use” protections in U.S. law, which will make it hard for Oracle to extract huge sums from Google.
The jury found that Android infringed on nine lines of Java coding, the penalty for which violation is confined to statutory damages no higher than $150,000 — pittance for a company the size of Google.
Still, Google has filed for a mistrial on the API ruling, arguing that the law doesn’t allow an infringement finding if the fair use question isn’t answered. If the mistrial is granted, the allegations could be re-examined by a new jury, which could potentially find in favor of Oracle. Clearly Google is confident that won’t happen, though.
Alsup must also rule on whether U.S. law even allows APIs to be copyrighted. If they can, Oracle could still pursue a portion of Google’s Android profits, though the fair-use question will have to be resolved in Oracle’s favor if it wants to cash in big.
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