Jury Finds Google Innocent of Java Patent Infringement
May 23, 2012 3:53 PM
(Source: LucasFilm, Ltd.)
Oracle gambit is dashed by failure
A note to Google Inc.'s (
) legal enemies (and there are many) -- Google may seem soft-hearted and overly idealistic in its public persona, but in the court room it has more in common with Jason Statham than frosted pastries and cutesy robots.
I. Patent Infringement? "Not Guilty"
Oracle Corp. (
) learned that the hard way in
U.S. Federal District Court for the Northern District of California
(San Francisco) today when a jury rejected its arguments and found Google innocent [
] in every case of alleged patent infringement.
It took the jury a bit over a week to deliberate and reach a verdict in the patent phase of the case. That same jury already
handed a Google a major early win
, finding it only violated one of the many copyrights Oracle accused it of, and further was deadlocked on whether Oracle conclusively established the inapplicability of fair use rules. Hence the jury only ruled Google guilty of minor copyright infringement, and could not decide whether that infringement was acceptable under Fair Use law, hence they essentially found no guilt by Google in the copyright infringement portion.
Google's peachy position was only slightly marred by presiding
Judge William Alsup
's decision that Google also violated copyrights on eight Java test files. Still, all and all Google escaped relatively scott-free from the copyright portion.
Now it has a resounding victory in the patent portion to accompany it. Of the two patents --
U.S. Patent RE38,104
-- jurors found that Google did not infringe on a single on of the 8 asserted claims.
As with the copyright phase, the case now goes before Judge Alsup for an official review. There may be minor modifications, but Judge Alsup's ruling in the copyright phase was fairly close to the jury's so it would be somewhat surprising to seem him diverge substantially in the patent phase.
II. Copyright Infringement Damages Shaping up to be Minimal, as Well
As to the copyright infringements (the RangeCheck and eight test files), the validity of those copyright is in question as there's a debate over whether Oracle should have been allowed to copyright the structure, sequence, and organization (SSO) of the Java code.
Given that the rest of the copyright phase has wrapped up, Google and Oracle have reached an agreement. If the SSO is found to be valid, all three copyright infringement counts will be bundled together in a new trial. In the new trial, the jury would be informed that SSO copyrights were not covered by copyright law. This would make the jury even less likely, in theory, to find Google guilty of any infringement than the minimal infringement findings by the current jury, who operated under the assumption that copyright laws protected SSO-style works.
If the judge finds that copyright laws
protect such works -- the best case for Oracle -- Oracle will receive at most $150,000 USD per infringement, along with Google being banned from using that code. Neither punishment would be very damaging to Google (9 infringements x $150K USD = $1.35M USD) given the ease by which Google could implement workarounds in its
Java virtual machine
Judge Alsup is taking the next couple days off for personal reasons, but a decision on the patent phase (based on the jury's findings of Google's complete innocence) and the final ruling on the SSO issue are expected from him within a couple weeks.
Whatever that decision is, it's already fairly clear that Google will at most have minor workaround work ahead of it, and be obliged to pay at most a couple million dollars. That's wildly different from the billions of dollars in punitive damages Oracle had sought originally. It's even far 0.65 percent of Android revenue and $2.8M USD in a lump cash sum that Google was
willing to offer Oracle in the settlement phase
Google has been a mean machine, trashing foes in court. [Image Source: ZuperDZigh]
Therein lies the bitter irony for Oracle. It called Google's proposed settlement a "low ball" figure that undervalued its intellectual property. But in the end, it may wind up receiving far less because it
took the case to a trial by jury
. Of course, that's the risk one takes when they opt not to settle. And that's the risk anyone takes when they take on Google's legal team.
After all, Oracle is hardly the first "victim" of Google's sophisticated legal unit. Viacom, Inc. (
) can attest to that, after its lawyers
after Google revealed that Viacom employees had uploaded infringed content to Google's YouTube in
an apparent attempt to frame the internet firm
. Moral of the story -- don't mess with Google -- or if you do, come ready for a fight.
"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home
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