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Oracle faces setback in case against Google

In the copyright portion of Oracle's case against Google, a federal jury is unable to decide whether the Internet search giant had the legal right to use Java programming language under 'fair use.'

May 07, 2012|By Jessica Guynn, Los Angeles Times
  • An impasse after five days of jury deliberation means that Oracle is unlikely to wring hundreds of millions of dollars from Google on copyright infringement claims. Above, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt leaves federal court in San Francisco last month.
An impasse after five days of jury deliberation means that Oracle is unlikely… (David Paul Morris, Bloomberg )

SAN FRANCISCO — A federal jury handed Oracle Corp. a major setback in its high-stakes copyright infringement case against Google Inc. by failing to agree on a key issue in the case.

The 12-member panel concluded that Google lifted technology from Oracle's Java programming language to build its popular Android mobile software that powers more than 300 million devices, but could not reach a unanimous decision on whether Google had the legal right to do so under "fair use."

The impasse after five days of deliberation means that Oracle is unlikely to wring hundreds of millions of dollars from the search giant on copyright infringement claims. Oracle had said it wanted as much as $1 billion in damages and a court order that would have forced Google to negotiate a license for Java or redesign its Android software.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup said Monday that there was virtually no finding of copyright liability without a verdict on fair use.

Google, which prevailed on other claims, is looking to set aside the jury's finding of copyright infringement. Alsup said he would hear arguments on a motion to dismiss later in the week.

The jury also found that Android infringes nine lines of Java code, but that claim probably would not be worth more than $150,000 in damages. When an Oracle lawyer made the argument that the snippet of code could be worth more, Alsup said the notion "borders on the ridiculous."

Google shares rose $10.58, or 2%, to $607.55, while Oracle shares fell 49 cents, or nearly 2%, to $27.92.

The trial began two weeks ago with the copyright phase and featured testimony from dueling tech chief executives, Oracle's Larry Ellison and Google's Larry Page. Now the jury will consider Oracle's claims of patent infringement. A third phase on damages will follow.

Oracle alleges that Google stole copyrights and patents from its Java programming language when Google developed its Android software. Oracle acquired Java in 2010 when it bought Sun Microsystems Inc. It sued Google later that same year. Google claims it only used parts of Java that are freely available.

"We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims," Google spokesman Jim Prosser said in an email.

Oracle maintains that Google needed a license to make use of Java's "application programming interfaces," which help different types of software communicate.

"The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license," Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger said in an emailed statement.

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