Google Cleared in Oracle Patent Suit

May 23, 2012
Unanimous jury finds Android OS does not infringe on Java software patents, ending Oracle's billion-dollar damages bid.

A jury on Wednesday declared Google innocent of patent infringement in a high-stakes court battle pitting the business software titan Oracle (IW 500/40) against the Internet giant.

In a unanimous decision, 10 jurors agreed that Oracle had not proven any of its claims that Google infringed on Java software patents in the Android operating software for smartphones and tablet computers.

"We are grateful for the jury's verdict," lead Google attorney Robert Van Nest said as he left the courtroom, declining to say anything more.

The head of the Oracle legal team smiled tightly as he left court but declined to comment on the verdict.

The jury verdict derailed Oracle's quest to get more than a billion dollars in damages from Google.

Oracle accused Google of infringing on Java computer programming language patents and copyrights Oracle obtained when it bought Java inventor Sun Microsystems in a $7.4 billion deal in 2009.

Google has denied the claims and said it believes mobile phone makers and other users of its open-source Android operating system are entitled to use the Java technology in dispute.

The Internet titan unveiled the free Android operating system two years before Oracle bought Sun.

Jurors deliberated for nearly seven days in what U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup said was longer than the time taken by jurors in any other civil trial he has presided over.

A copyright phase of the trial ended earlier this month with the same jury ruled that Google's Android operating system violated Java software copyrights but deadlocked when it came to the pivotal question of whether it constituted "fair use" of the technology.

If Google's use of copyrighted Java application programming interfaces (APIs) in Android was fair use, Oracle would deserve no damages from the Mountain View, California-based Internet firm under the law.

The copyright verdict limited any damages Oracle could potentially win to, at most, a small amount allowed by law. The verdict in the patent phase meant Google was liable for no damages in that regard.

Alsup canceled a planned damages phase of the trial and sent the jury home on Wednesday.

Google has asked for a new trial on the copyright portion of a legal battle being fought with Oracle in San Francisco federal court.

Adding to the complexity of the case, Alsup early on reserved the right to make the ultimate decision whether application programming interfaces (APIs) at issue in the first phase of the trial can even be copyrighted.

The judge could have a decision as early as next week.

Oracle's challenge of Google in court over copyrights was an unusual tactic being watched intently in Silicon Valley.

In the fast-paced land of Internet innovation, it has been common for software writers to put their own spins on APIs that mini-programs use to "talk" to one another.

The jury concluded that Google infringed on 37 copyrighted APIs but it also agreed that Google demonstrated that it was led to believe it did not need a license for using Java.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2012

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