Google-Oracle lawsuit: The issue of “fair use” still in play

With the 12-member San Francisco jury in the Google-Oracle Java lawsuit failing to reach a unanimous decision about whether Google’s infringement of Oracle’s Java copyrights was “fair use,” US District Judge William Alsup said on Tuesday that Oracle cannot seek $1 billion in damages from Google.

Since the jury found that Google was guilty of violation of Oracle's copyrights for programming tools and nine lines of code, Judge Alsup said that, at the present stage of the case, the damages which can be sought by Oracle can only be on the nine lines, which, going by legal evaluations would amount to a maximum of $150,000.

Revealing the jury’s decision on the programming tools, Judge Alsup said that the “fair use” issue is “still in play” because of the jury’s “zero finding of liability on copyright.” Asking the jury to take up the damages in the final phase of the eight-week trial, the judge ordered the beginning of the patent phase of the lawsuit on Tuesday.

The lawsuit is largely based on Oracle’s accusations that Google had used copyrighted Java programming language – which Oracle acquired after its 2010 takeover of Sun Microsystems - for developing its Android mobile operating system.

Noting that “the overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license” for using Java for Android, Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger, in response to the jury’s verdict, said: “Oracle, the nine million Java developers, and the entire Java community thank the jury for their verdict in this phase of the case.”