updated 12:45 am EDT, Thu June 21, 2012
Prescedent-setting trial expected to be appealed
The contentious Oracle lawsuit against Google's use of Java code in Android, which ended in a mixed and muted exoneration for Google, took another turn Wednesday as the two tech titans agreed to a zero-dollar award. Presiding Judge William Alsup only asked "is there a catch I need to be aware of." Oracle is filing a partial appeal with the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which could return portions of the suit to Alsup's courtroom later this year.
The small amount of duplicated code in TimSort.java that is known to have infringed Oracle patents could have been used as the basis behind a small damages claim, likely capped at $150,000, but Oracle chose not to pursue the matter. Both parties have agreed to complete the case and move on to the inevitable appeal with no outstanding issues. Google has 14 days to file with the judge for legal costs it incurred, which it won the right to be reimbursed for. Alsup will ultimately determine what will be awarded, though Oracle is expected to contest the request.
Oracle had initially asked for billions of dollars in renumeration for the infringement. After initial court battles went poorly for Oracle, Google proposed a half-percent of Android revenue license on one contested patent, and 0.015 percent of a second, but Oracle refused the offer.
Fortunes seemed to turn in the trial when Google's self titled "Chief Java Architect" Joshua Bloch admitted to "likely" copying nine lines of Oracle's Java code for Google's Android, but defended himself by saying he had inadvertently reused an algorithm he designed nearly a decade prior. Bloch called the copying "good engineering practice". The judge agreed, falling back on some previous coding experience of his own.
Both phases of the trial resulted in a jury that found it difficult to come to a consensus. Ultimately, the jury found duplicated code, but no infringement. Oracle's attempt to toss the second jury ruling failed on May 31, leading to Alsup's decision later in the day.
The case is responsible for a precedent-setting ruling (seen below) setting aside much of the jury's previous findings, and confirming the non-copyrightable nature of APIs. The language in the 41-page brief clearly attempts to prevent future legal procedural maneuvers from undermining the ruling.
In a possible attempt to prevent revisionist history by Google or Oracle lawyers, Alsup wrote prior to laying out the details of his ruling that "Oracle has made much of nine lines of code that crept into both Android and Java. This circumstance is so innocuous and overblown by Oracle that the actual facts, as found herein by the judge, will be set forth below for the benefit of the court of appeals."