Google on Tuesday asked for a mistrial in the first phase of its ongoing jury trial with Oracle following Monday’s mixed verdict on the question of whether the search giant infringed upon Oracle’s copyright of Java software code.
A federal jury ruled that Google infringed upon the overall copyright structure of Oracle’s Java software platform in the creation of the Android operating system used in smartphones and other mobile devices. But the jury, which is now hearing arguments in a second phase of the trial regarding Oracle’s claim of patent infringement, was unable to reach a decision on a key claim by Google regarding what the company called its fair use of the 37 Oracle-owned Java APIs at issue in the case.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup had instructed the jury before its deliberations that the two parts of a question concerning infringement of Java’s overall copyright structure and the fair use argument made by Google were “indivisible.”
The jury also found for Google in certain specific instances of alleged copyright infringement and determined that Google could have reasonably believed that the Android development team’s use of Java was proper at the time it was building out the OS in part by cloning Java APIs and libraries without an official license agreement with Sun Microsystems, the then-owner of Java, which was acquired by Oracle in January 2010.
Immediately following Monday’s verdict, Google lead attorney Robert Van Nest informed Judge Alsup that he would be filing a motion for a mistrial, which Google’s legal team did the following day.
“Under settled Supreme Court and Ninth Circuit law, the jury’s failure to reach a verdict concerning both halves of this indivisible question requires a new trial concerning both questions,” Van Nest wrote in his motion to the court, as reported by Courthouse News. “To accept the infringement verdict as binding on the parties and retry only fair use would violate both the unanimity requirement and the Reexamination Clause of the Seventh Amendment.”
Van Nest cited recent instances of the federal Ninth Circuit ruling that “a defendant has a right to a unanimous verdict on liability,” while also arguing that the Constitution upholds the notion that “the issues of infringement and fair use are sufficiently factually intertwined that a retrial of fair use cannot be had without also retrying infringement.”
Oracle’s legal team was expected to file a counter-motion by Wednesday evening, according to Courthouse News. Judge Alsup said Monday that he would hear arguments for and against a mistrial for the trial’s first phase on Tuesday and Thursday but did not say when he would issue a judgment on the matter.
Google’s fair use argument holds that the company only used parts of free and open-source Java software APIs and libraries, and then transformed them fundamentally in creating Android by “strap[ping] a set of rockets onto Java,” as Van Nest put it in his closing arguments for the copyright phase.
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