Google's Android did not infringe Oracle patents, jury finds

The jury deliberated for more than a week before finding no infringement on any claims related to two Java-related patents

Google's Android operating system does not infringe Oracle's Java patents, a jury in San Francisco found Wednesday, in a setback for Oracle. The jury delivered its verdict after more than a week of deliberations. It found no infringement of any of the claims in two Java-related patents Oracle had asserted in its lawsuit against Google, court documents show. The verdict brings to an end a closely watched trial that has captivated Silicon Valley since it began on April 16. The jury had already returned an inconclusive verdict in the copyright phase of the trial, and the finding of no patent infringement meant the jury had no need to calculate damages for Oracle and could be dismissed. However, the legal battle between the two companies is not over. There may yet be a new trial to hear the part of the copyright verdict on which the jury was undecided and both parties seem sure to appeal any final outcome that goes against them. But for now, Oracle leaves the courtroom with a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars in damages it was seeking when it originally filed its lawsuit. Oracle sued Google in August 2010, arguing that its Android OS infringes Java-related patents and copyrights that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems two years ago. The trial was to be held in three phases, to address patents, copyrights and damages, and has seen the CEOs of both companies take the witness stand. The jury already delivered its verdict in the copyrights phase of the trial two weeks ago. It found that Google had infringed Oracle's copyright on 37 Java application programming interfaces used in Android, but could not agree unanimously on whether Google's use of those APIs had been covered by fair use. The jury had been split nine-to-three on that question in Google's favor, one of the jurors told reporters outside the courtroom Wednesday. Google asked for a mistrial when the partial verdict came in, arguing that the questions of infringement and fair use must be decided by the same jury. Oracle is pushing for a new trial to decide just the fair use question. Beyond all of that, however, the judge in the case, William Alsup, must decide whether the APIs in Java can be covered by copyright at all under U.S. law. If he decides they cannot, the jury's finding of infringement will be rendered moot and Oracle is likely to appeal Alsup's legal ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. If the judge decides the Java APIs can be covered by copyright, he will then need to decide whether to start a new trial to decide the fair use question. He could also choose to let the appeals court decide on the legal question of whether APIs can be copyrighted and wait for that decision before retrying the issue of fair use. Alsup did find in Oracle's favor that a small amount of code in Android had been copied, but the amount of damages at stake for that code is trivial compared with the $800 million Oracle had been seeking for the infringement of the APIs. The patents phase of the trial was considered less significant than the copyrights phase. That's because Oracle had originally accused Google of infringing seven Java-related patents in Android, but Google had all of the patents reexamined by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and got the number whittled down to just two for the trial. "Today's jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle's patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem," Google said in a statement. Oracle issued a statement implying the battle is not over. "Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java. We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java's core write once run anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the nine million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility." The two patents at issue relate to performance and memory management in the virtual machine software where Java programs are run. They are patent number 6,061,520, which describes a "method and system for performing static initialization," and the reissued patent number 38,104, describing a "method and apparatus for resolving data references in generated code." The reissued patent was awarded to James Gosling, the Sun engineer often called the father of Java. James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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