According to published reports, a federal jury earlier today delivered a mixed result in Oracle v. Google. The jury found that Google had in fact infringed on Oracle’s Java copyright (by virtue of its Sun Microsystems acquisition) in using some Java code in Android and related APIs.
However it deadlocked on the question of whether that infringement was protected by the doctrine of “fair use.” Fair use is a defense against a claim of copyright infringement. There were more findings and procedural nuances, more fully explained in the Mercury News article on the case.
Google has now moved for a mistrial on the basis of the jury’s deadlock on the fair use question. Oracle instead seeks to have the judge decide fair use. A mistrial could mean a retrying of the copyright issues.
The verdict today does not dispose of the case in any way. Phase II of the trial, regarding whether Google violated Oracle’s patents, is now set to begin. Following the outcome of the patent questions the jury will consider money damages.
Oracle is claiming it is owed hundreds of millions of dollars by Google. It was also seeking a share of Google’s profits, which is why Android profit and losses were being presented to the judge last week.
The outcome today is a “split decision,” with some legal experts even saying that Google is ultimately in a better position than Oracle on the copyright question. If the court or a later trial decides that the inclusion of Java code qualifies as “fair use,” the damages available would be far lower than what Oracle is asking for. They would be capped at $150,000 and could be much less.