This result was expected since Google’s own witnesses have admitted that the existence of nine lines of code forming a range check must have been included verbatim from the original Java code, and therefore not possibly Google’s own work. However, Google claimed “fair use” in its defence and the jury was unable to agree on whether or not that common copyright element applies in this case.
So there has been no definitive finding against Google, and its legal team has moved for a mistrial on the basis that without that finding, there is no way to determine Google’s exposure to damages if any.
The second phase of the action involves Oracle’s claim that Android infringes various patents related to the Java language, but this area is unlikely to reap any reward for Oracle as during the pre-trial phase, the company’s claims have repeatedly been thrown out, reducing Oracle’s potential damages claim from more than six billion dollars US, to a maximum of perhaps tens of millions. And there is no certainty that Oracle can prove patent infringement at all.
Thus, the finding of the jury, as positive for Oracle as it seems at first look, is actually a rather empty victory. The Java owner was reliant on clearly winning the copyright phase to get the damages it was seeking, and the “fair use” component has effectively resulted in a stalemate. Oracle’s choices are to either agree to a retrial and hope to do better the second time around, or to enter negotiations with Google for an out of court settlement.
But such negotiations would be drawn out and unlikely to reward Oracle with the scale of damages that it hoped a clear win over copyright infringement would. Google, on the other hand, will no doubt pressure for retrial as it has nothing to lose and much to gain from that course of action.
Phase two is set to begin before the same twelve member jury as just completed the copyright phase. It will be interesting to see if they are as divided in their verdict over patents as they were about copyright.