SAN FRANCISCO – A federal jury in San Francisco has reached an impasse on a key issue in Oracle’s copyright-infringement case against Google, handing the database-software company a major setback.
Oracle had been seeking up to $1 billion in damages on copyright claims after alleging that Google Inc. built its popular Android mobile software by stealing some of the technology from Java, a programming platform that Oracle Corp. bought two years ago.
In delivering a partial verdict Monday, the jury found that Google infringed on the largest of Oracle’s claims, but it couldn’t agree on whether Google’s use was legally protected “fair use.” Without that determination, it will be difficult for Oracle to win major damages.
TECH TRIAL OF THE CENTURY: Oracle has accused Google of patent infringement over Google’s Android, the mobile OS that now powers more than 300 million smartphones and tablets.
Jan. 27, 2010: Oracle closes deal to buy Sun Microsystems, gets the Java programming language.
Aug. 12: Oracle sues Google in U.S. District Court, says Android infringes on Java.
Sept. 12, 2011: Company CEOs are ordered to attend mediation to settle the lawsuit.
March 27, 2012: In a joint statement, companies say they are far apart. Oracle seeks hundreds of millions in damages, Google won’t pay more than a few million.
April 16: Trial begins. In opening statements, Oracle says Google’s top executives have long known that they stole a key piece of tech.
April 17: Google’s opening statements frame the case as Oracle’s response to its own failure to build mobile software. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison admits he wanted to compete before deciding instead to sue Google.
April 18: Google’s Larry Page returns to the witness stand, looking uncomfortable as he deflected questions about his role.
Monday: Lawyers make closing arguments on the copyright issues. Judge sends case to jury for deliberation.
The jury also found that Google infringed on Oracle’s copyright on nine lines of Java code that is in Android, but Oracle can only go after statutory damages on that one. Those damages can range from $200 to $150,000.
Google is moving for a mistrial. Google prevailed on other claims.
Google has argued that it only used parts of Java that have always been freely available.
The same jury will now hear evidence in the next phase of the trial, covering Oracle’s allegations that Android violates two Java patents. Those claims are believed to be worth considerably less to Oracle than the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages that it had hoped to extract from Google had it prevailed on all of its all of its allegations of copyright infringement.
Oracle bought Sun and Sun’s Java technology in early 2010. Later that year, Oracle sued Google, alleging Android infringes copyrights and patents that protect Java. The companies went to trial in San Francisco earlier this month.
During his closing argument, Google attorney Van Nest leaned heavily on the testimony of former Sun Chief Executive Jonathan Schwartz, who had said Sun had no grounds to sue Google over Android. Schwartz, as Google’s attorneys stressed, publicly praised Android.