A federal jury in San Francisco found on Monday that Google infringed on copyrights held by Oracle, Inc., in the construction of its Android mobile operating system. The jury remained deadlocked, however, on whether those infringements constituted "fair use" under copyright law.
Oracle sued Google in August 2010 seeking $1 billion in damages for both patent and copyright violations. Android is the leading smartphone operating system in the U.S., controlling 61 percent of new handset sales, according to figures released on Monday by NPD Group.
The Associated Press reports that the lack of a finding on the "fair use" issue will dramatically limit the damages Oracle is eligible to collect for violations.
It was not disputed that Google engineers incorporated Java, a programming language that allows interaction between computer programs, into the basic structure of Android. Oracle, Inc., which came to own Java in its 2010 acquisition of Sun Microsystems, argued that Google copied Java application programming interfaces (APIs) without permission or a license.
Google argued that Java is a programming language that is open and free for programmers to use. In a court filing, their attorneys questioned whether it was legally sound for a computer language to be free for programmers to use but to require a license for computers to process code with it.
The jury was also charged with determining whether three instances of copying that were acknowledged by Google were "de minimis," or too minor to merit legal consequences. Google was found to be guilty of infringement in one of these instances.
According to Wired's report from the courtroom, Google is moving for a mistrial.
U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup is still expected to rule on the issue of whether APIs are subject to copyright law. On May 3, he invited the parties to clarify their arguments with respect to this issue, offering a set if 13 questions to guide their thinking. Those responses are due on May 10.
"We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin," Google said in a statement. "The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that's for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims."
The next phase of the case will focus on patent infringement.
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