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Legal Experts Decipher Oracle-Google Verdict

Publication Date: 
May 07, 2012
Source: 
Cnet News
Author: 
Charles Cooper, Elinor Mills and Daniel Terdiman

Lecturer Brian Love provided his perspective on the Oracle v. Google case in the following CNET News piece by Charles Cooper, Elinor Mills, and Daniel Terdiman.

The fact that a jury couldn't make up its mind about a key question in Oracle's copyright-infringement case against Google could turn out to be good news for Google and the Android development community, according to legal experts.

A unanimous jury found that Google infringed on Oracle's 37 Java APIs, but they could not decide whether Google had made "fair use" of the infringing material in its Android mobile platform. As a result, the odds of a billion-dollar payday in Oracle's future -- at least in the near term -- are relatively low and the odds of a mistrial, requested by Google's lawyers today, being granted by the judge are relatively high.

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At this point in the case, Brian Love, a lecturer and fellow at Stanford Law School, gave the nod to Google:

"I would tend to agree with Google's position that there can't be an ultimate determination on infringement until the fair use question is answered, and if jury can't decide if what Google did was fair use then it can't say that what Google did was copyright infringement. Because if something is fair use, then by definition it can't be copyright infringement."

"Typically, you'd think a jury would say we're at impasse and the judge would say 'deliberate more, deliberate more.' I'm a little surprised that the judge let the verdict come down as it did. Think about all the cost and expense to put this trial on, and when a jury comes back and says 'we can't answer a question that's crucial to the case,' I think what's going to have to end up happening is what Google wants, which is that there would have to be a mistrial."

Echoing a comment offered by other legal experts, Love said he was unsure whether a final judgment could be rendered case without an answer on the fair use question, leading him to expect the judge to grant the mistrial motion.

As for the immediate future, Love said there could be additional proceedings on the copyright issue.

"I'm guessing that what will happen is that the case will continue on the patent issues and then we'll find out pretty soon on the copyright, and whether the last couple of weeks on the copyright proceedings has been all for naught...The more immediate question before Judge Alsup is whether copyright even applies to this dispute. If the judge decides no, then none of this really matters and Google can't infringe as matter of law."