Yet again, confusion reigns in California

Oracle vs Google – Jury Deadlock? Partial verdict? Mistrial?

Chris Mayer

We reach the end of the week with the jury still mulling over their verdict, with speculation mounting that they are deadlocked. Google and Oracle offer solution, the situation gets murkier

Another day has passed without word from the courtroom in California, the scene for Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Java APIs in Android. Judge Alsup has spoken -  “Hope for the best, plan for the worst.”

Things took an interesting turn on Thursday, as a juror asked how the jury should proceed if an unanimous conclusion can’t be reached and one individual won’t change their stance.

This would indeed indicate that the jury is split over whether Google infringed Java copyright, although Judge Alsup was quick to state that the note wasn’t from the foreperson, and wasn’t an official statement that the jury was tied up. Even so, this possibility of jurors unwilling to budge has been floated by the judge, with several media outlets catching on. Judge Alsup then excused the exhausted jury for the rest of Thursday, to return the following day.

After three days of deliberation, this bombshell has flustered the court, who are now contemplating what to do if the jury do not return an unanimous verdict. There’s five options:

  • Resubmit the issues for further deliberations
  • Ask the parties to forgo unanimity and go with a majority vote
  • Enter partial judgment
  • Declare a mistrial
  • Order a partial retrial to cover those issues not unanimously agreed upon

As ever there’s polarising opinions from each side – Oracle are pressing to continue into the second part of the trial and take the jury’s say as a partial verdict, whilst Google are steadfast in wanting a complete verdict or it should be ruled as mistrial.

“We do need to be careful about what we get,” Google’s head laywer, Robert Van Nest exclaimed. “If the jury fails to resolve an issue, the only correct result there is a mistrial on that divisible question and move on to the patent phase.”

If we were to proceed into the patent stage, it would add an extra degree of uncertainity to this volatile and fragile case. After mulling over each individual option and hearing each side put forward their argument, Judge Alsup responded soundly with his arms folded, “I’m going to receive a partial verdict. I’m not going to let this court go to waste.”

It may not be his final decision, but it looks increasingly likely that to speed up an already sluggish period of inactivity (at least for the lawyers), we may well come to a partial verdict. Which leaves us in copyright purgatory, pretty much.

It’s all up a bit in the air, but we’ll bring the latest when it happens. Hopefully.

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