Jury deals blow to Oracle in case vs. Google

Posted at 05/24/12 8:18 AM

SAN FRANCISCO - Google Inc's Android mobile platform has not infringed Oracle Corp's patents, a California jury decided, putting an indefinite hold on Oracle's quest for damages in a legal fight between the two Silicon Valley giants over smartphone technology.

The verdict was delivered on Wednesday in a San Francisco federal court. The same jury could not unanimously agree on the copyright allegations earlier in the case, though the jury foreman told reporters on Wednesday that the final vote on a key copyright issue heavily favored Google.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010, saying Android - the world's most used mobile software - infringed on its intellectual property rights to the Java programming language. Google says it does not violate Oracle's patents and that Oracle cannot copyright certain parts of Java, an "open-source" or publicly available software language.

Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger on Wednesday said the company would continue to defend and uphold Java's unique functionality.

Attorneys for Oracle looked grim after the verdict. Google lawyers smiled and shook hands, and Google attorney Robert Van Nest said they were grateful for the jury's verdict.

The jury found earlier that Oracle had proven copyright infringement for parts of Java. But the jury could not unanimously agree on whether Google could fairly use that material.

Without a finding against Google on the fair use question, Oracle cannot recover damages on the bulk of its copyright claims. And U.S. District Judge William Alsup has not yet decided on several legal issues that could determine how a potential retrial on copyright would unfold, if at all.

Jury foreman Greg Thompson, 52, said that at times he was the only holdout for Oracle on that fair use copyright question. When the jury finally declared itself deadlocked, the final vote count was 9-3 in favor of Google, Thompson said.

According to Thompson, a retirement plan specialist, one of the other jurors used a food analogy to describe Oracle's evidence.

"He said he was waiting for the steak, and all he got was the parsley," Thompson said.

All the other jurors filed past reporters outside the courtroom and declined to comment.

While Oracle is seeking about $1 billion in copyright damages, the patent damages in play were much lower. Before trial, Google offered to pay Oracle roughly $2.8 million in damages on the two patents remaining in the case, covering the period through 2011, according to a filing made jointly by the companies.

For future damages, Google proposed paying Oracle 0.5 percent of Android revenue on one patent until it expires this December and 0.015 percent on a second patent until it expires in April 2018. Oracle rejected the settlement offer.

During trial, Judge Alsup revealed that Android generated roughly $97.7 million in revenue during the first quarter of 2010.

Shares in Oracle closed 1.2 percent higher at $26.68. Google stock was up 1.4 percent at $609.46.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, is Oracle America, Inc v. Google Inc, 10-3561.