Finally we might be getting somewhere

Oracle vs Google – trial roadmap laid out by Alsup, copyright damages postponed for future trial

Chris Mayer

Realising that we’ve entered a courtroom quagmire, Judge Alsup takes control forcing both sides to thrash the blueprint for continuing the trial. All possible outcomes detailed.

As reported yesterday, Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over Android was entering the farcical yet they still have the faintest glimmer of hope of obtaining the astronomical damages for the minimal lines of code that were found to be infringing.

Wednesday’s play began with an emergency summit between Judge Alsup and the two parties to outline where the trial was heading. As ZDNet’s Rachael King aptly put it, the potential outcomes read like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ storybook.

The most salient piece to take from the session was that the copyright damages phase will now be postponed after both Oracle and Google came to a truce. In summary, the jury will play no further part in the copyright part (currently out debating the patent phase), nor will we hear anything further until the appeals have passed and if a future trial is granted by the court. Google are still pushing to tie the infringement and fair use matters into a new trial, but Oracle vehemently opposes this.

As previously stated, Oracle are free to go for infringer’s profits but with some caveats – neither they or Google can call upon previous witnesses or reports already seen by the jury. If the SSO claim is put forward to a new jury in a future trial, then both parties waive their right to a jury trial over damages from the nine lines of code in ‘rangeCheck’. Phew.

This is of course all irrelevant if the coding Judge Alsup returns from his background reading on the 37 Java APIs and rules that they aren’t copyrightable, meaning he might give Oracle statuory damages alone – barely amounting to spare change for them. If he finds they are copyrightable, Oracle gets a second chance via a re-trial.

So this leaves us with four possible outcomes, with a mass of grey area inbetween with appeals aplenty expected:

  • Oracle wins API copyright debate and patent portion – has an outside chance of winning big, and gets the jury to debate damages. It won’t be in the big figure ballpark they want though, with Oracle’s own damages expert suggesting that the two patents are worth $4m together maximum, and Google will clearly contest this.
  • Oracle wins API copyright debate but loses patents – gets re-trial but damages decided at a later date.
  • Oracle loses API copyright debate but wins patents – gets small damages, can ask for injunction on offending Android patents
  • Oracle loses both – wipeout, two year battle with Android comes up with nothing.

Clearer? We hope so. Now we await that crucial decision from Judge Alsup on API copyrights as well as hearing the jury’s decision on Phase 2 on patents. It could transpire that Alsup awards damages here, given that in comparison to the copyright phase, it’s a small amount. The murky quagmire that is this trial has been made as crystal clear as we’re going to get.

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