Friday, 25 May 2012

Common Sense: 1, Oracle: 0

The jury in the Oracle V Google case has decided that Google did not infringe Oracle parents in the Dalvik virtual machine for Android. However, the API question has still to be resolved, so it's not over yet.

The copyright

Jurors split on copyright issues 9-3—in Google's favor, according to Groklaw and Ars Technica. The decision that it did infringe copyright was made null by the failure to agree on fair use. In an interview after the trial, the foreman, Greg Thompson, said,

"We felt that the judge's instructions put us a lot of the way towards finding infringement."

The reason for the silly-sounding verdict, it seems, was Judge Alsup's direction that they must assume that the Java APIs were copyighted. Since the code was written as a tool, a decision of fair use is more likely.

"A lot of the jurors were focused on functionality versus creativity," said Thompson, with a majority "putting greater weight on functionality."

While Sun's Java scripts had been intended to be open source, and the jury were aware of that, the fact that Google had been relying mostly on a blog post by  former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz to congratulate Google on Android's launch actually counted against them, according to Thompson. One particular quote in his interview with Ars Technica's Joe Mullin offers an insight into why the jury finally found in favour of Google:

"The more tech savvy a person is, the more difficult it might be to convince them of something that would limit [technology]... and future expansion of the common good," he said.

It's good that he realised that. Of course, the continuing litigation over patents to either stop other companies from innovating or make them pay a license fee for the privilege is continuing to harm our economy by driving up prices. The companies involved will surely pass the costs on to the consumer rather than absorb them.

The patents

All claims of infringement of the patents have been thrown out. The jury was unanimous on this. Google is delighted, needless to say, since Oracle had been threatening an injunction and since there's no patent infringement, they can't go ahead with it. There's now the third phase to go. The API SSO claim will probably go before a second jury to determine the damages for the nine lines of code involved. There's a stipulated agreement between the parties signed by the judge on copyright damages and the various ways it might be computed, so it's not over yet. However, as the judge pointed out earlier, it's not worth much. Oracle seems likely to appeal, but would it be worth the hassle?

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