Oracle v. Google copyright case: The road ahead

The partial verdict jurors reached was just the end of round one in a three-round bout between Google and Oracle.

By John P. Mello Jr., PC World |  IT Management, copyright, Google

The partial verdict reached in the "tech trial of the decade" between Oracle and Google was just the end of round one in a three-round bout between the industry behemoths.

That first phase dealt with copyrights. The second phase, which begins Tuesday, focuses on alleged patent infringements by Google. Following that will be phase three, which will determine damages in the case.

While the jury submitted a verdict to the court on the first phase of the trial, most of the substantive issues from the phase persist.

For example, the jury decided that Google infringed on Oracle's intellectual property when the search giant lifted a number of application program interfaces from Java, which Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010, for its mobile operating system, Android.

However, Google's defense of its action -- that use of the APIs constituted a "fair use" of the code -- was not decided by the jury. Since the case began, both Google and Oracle have argued that Judge William Alsup should decide the fair use issue.

Alsup, though, seems intent on having the jury settle the matter. He assigned the question to them during the first phase of the trial and has suggested that the question be resubmitted to the jury after the patent phase is finished.

The jury's failure to decide the fair use issue in its verdict in phase one has prompted Google to file for a mistrial in the case. Alsup is expected to rule on that motion soon.

What's more, whether those APIs can be copyrighted in the first place also remains in question. Historically, APIs have not been subject to copyright. And recently, the European Union affirmed that notion.

"To accept that the functionality of a computer program can be protected by copyright would amount to making it possible to monopolize ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development," the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in a case involving the SAS Institute and World Programming.

Oracle claims, however, that the Java APIs are sufficiently complex to deserve copyright protection.

That question is on Alsup's plate, too. He has set a May 14 deadline for Google and Oracle to submit their arguments on the question to him.


Originally published on PC World |  Click here to read the original story.
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