Oracle v. Google patent phase wraps up

Oracle logoLegal teams in Oracle v. Google are preparing to present closing arguments tomorrow, after a flurry of motions filed over the weekend didn't convince the judge overseeing the case to change the structure of the trial.

The central copyright question in the trial—whether Google infringed the "structure, sequence and organization" of 37 Java APIs—may need to be retried. Over the weekend, Oracle asked for the final, upcoming "damages phase" of the trial to be delayed until that retrial could take place.

Judge Alsup rejected that idea, instead insisting that Oracle must ask the jury for damages on the small copyright win that it has, or accept a judicial decision that would be limited to statutory damages, which would max out at $150,000 per work. Google said it's willing to accept Judge Alsup's decision on damages and avoid a jury altogether, but Oracle won't agree.

The trial is now starting its fifth week. It's meant to resolve Oracle's accusations that Google infringed copyrights and patents acquired when Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems in 2010, but the jury came back from the first phase with an inconclusive split verdict.

Alsup has delayed ruling on whether the "structure, sequence and organization" of APIs is copyrightable at all, another big issue in this case. He hasn't said when a ruling on that is coming. If Google wins that point, the need for a retrial over the issue will be avoided.

Oracle and Google both submitted additional briefs today on the issue of API copyrightability. Google argues that the structure of the 37 API packages is "functionally required for compatibility," and should be considered an uncopyrightable idea. Oracle, meanwhile, wrote that the structure of the APIs involved "years of design effort," and many different methods of solving the same problems could have been chosen. "No engineering team independently could have come up with all these same solutions," wrote Oracle lawyers.

Another small win for Oracle—and another warning

Oracle did get another small win, however. Alsup ruled that Google also infringed eight files that it decompiled from Java and used for testing. The jury didn't actually find infringement of those files, which never appeared in Android. However, Alsup found (PDF) that even Google's use of the files as "test files" was infringing.

Despite that, Alsup again warned Oracle the law couldn't support a big verdict over the tiny infringements found to be in Android, reiterating a point he made on Friday.

"There's no way that the law should allow a disgorgement theory in the billions or hundreds of millions over rangeCheck() or the decompile [files]," said Alsup. "[Oracle lawyer] Mr. Jacobs has made it sound like I'm cutting him off. I'm going to let him stand in front of the jury and present all that evidence... But it's my tentative view that there's no way the law would present such a super-extreme, hyper-extreme proposition."

Monday's court action consisted of concluding a battle between computer scientists hired by the two sides, making the predictable arguments: Google's expert saying Android doesn't infringe Oracle's patents, and Oracle's expert arguing that it does. The details involve how "symbolic references" are called up and used in Google's Dalvik virtual machine.

Evidence in the patent case closed just after noon on Monday, and the jurors will return tomorrow morning to hear closing arguments.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google, Java, legal action, Oracle

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