9 out of 3 jurors have ruled in Google’s favor regarding Oracle’s patent of the Java API code being reused for Android. In the last episode of the “Oracle vs. Google” show, the database and search giant called a temporary truce which sent unnerving shockwaves throughout the Android base. The headlines sent a surprising impression which got pundits thinking that Google and Oracle were ready to reach a settlement. This was after Oracle won a split decision from the jury over its patents – leaving the jury to contemplate whether the technical guidelines or SSO (structure, sequence, and organization of the coding) to be the forefront of the patent battle and not the program or actual code itself.
After the split decision, Oracle counsel David Boies made a quick suggestion that would prevent the jury from handling the damages for Google’s copyright infringement. The whole point was to keep Oracle’s hopes up for a substantial payout from owning the patent. That was when Judge William Alsup agreed to the proposition and surprised everyone. Under the agreement, any and all damages related to the two copyright infringement counts the search giant faces — at the moment, just for nine lines of rangeCheck code and eight decompiled Java files — will be delayed until Judge Alsup rules on the vital question of whether the structure, sequence, and organization (SSO) of 37 Java APIs are covered under current copyright law (aka the technical guidelines).
At that point, Oracle took the stance that they didn’t want to take a few million for the damages, instead they went for all the marbles. Oracle simply could not let Judge Alsup award damages since they are a fraction by comparison to the damages Oracle had sought over copyright infringement. How small? 37 x $150,000. The number of APIs infinged upon vs. the maximum number of damages that can be claimed per incident at a total of 5.5 million.
Now the jury leaned towards Google’s side and won the patent phase.
Ars Technica was on location and provided detail on how the jurors reached the verdict:
Oracle—after spending millions litigating this case and dragging in some of the world’s most famous tech CEOs to testify in a federal courtroom—had never even come close to winning.
After the copyright verdict, there had been some speculation around the Web that because the jury found that Google infringed copyright—but split on fair use—it was basically a pro-Oracle jury with one or two holdouts sticking up for Google. Talking to Thompson, it quickly became clear that wasn’t the case at all. A majority of jurors favored Google’s argument from the start, and the holdouts—primarily Thompson himself—were a beleaguered few favoring Oracle. At one point during the copyright phase, in fact, Thompson said he was the lone holdout. At the end, he swung a couple more jurors to his side, but they were still a distinct minority.
As to the finding of infringement, Thompson said that the jury actually didn’t debate it that long. The feeling was that the answer to the infringement question—the first one on the copyright verdict form—had basically been dictated by the judge’s instructions. (Judge Alsup told the jury, among other things, that they must assume that the Java APIs are copyrighted.) “We felt that the judge’s instructions put us a lot of the way towards finding infringement,” Thompson explained.
That caused the jury to focus on fair use, which actually wasn’t a particularly extensive part of the argument. The feeling was that the computer code being dealt with was basically a functional tool, and when a copyrighted work is functional rather than creative, that weighs in favor of fair use (and thus, Google.)
Prior to the verdict, we looked at another incident where one company sued another over its structure, sequence, and organization (“SSO”) - the very thing that Oracle is trying to claim damages for. That jury ruled in favor of the defendant. It concluded similarly to the Oracle vs. Google case and may have contributed to the jury’s findings.
It’s very cloudy how this can infringe as we looked at another case (Softel, Inc v. Dragon Medical & Scientific Communications, Inc) dated back in 1997-98 where Arizona State University Law Professor Dennis Karjala talks about how “program elements, such as structure, sequence, and organization (“SSO”) and elements of software interfaces, should not be protected by the copyright”.
In any case, it’s done. Or is it? That will depend on how much money Oracle CEO Larry Ellison wants to spend on litigation. Ellison and co. could potentially find a reason to appeal its for the loss. Or, his council could ask the trial judge to overturn the verdict. Not likely.
Considering that Judge Alsup is also a long standing coder, he has blatantly called out Boies lack of knowledge of the Java APIs and suggested that the case was a “fishing expedition“. With that in the record books, it’s unlikely we’ll see the case back in the limelight. All Oracle has left now is to appeal to the Ninth Circuit, the steepest of uphill climbs or provide compelling evidence that jurors acted clearly erroneously.
Via »Ars Technica