Google, according to a jury, violated Oracle’s copyright but it hasn’t been able to decide whether Google overstepped the fair use provisions of the law. And we are still waiting for the fat lady to sing. Indeed, she’s just getting warmed up.
As we mentioned in a piece last week — when it looked like the stars were aligning for Capital G — the case was specifically about whether Google violated copyright on IP acquired by Oracle as a result of Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems.
For its part, Google now wants a retrial which is hardly surprising when you think of the downstream implications of this for all those Android devices out there.
According to <i>Mashable</i>, “The big question for this phase of the trial was whether Google infringed on Oracle’s Java patents and tools and if that infringement was allowed based on rules of fair use. The jury found that Google did infringe on the use of the tools and APIs held by Oracle, however, it could not come to a decision regarding the fair use claim.”
The article explains that the reason both sides are pushing for more clarification is that “the fair use claim is so integral to future aspects of the case”.
The Mashable piece is short but gives a pretty simple and easy to understand synopsis of how this all came about.
For its part, Business Insider noted that the partial judgment satisfied nobody. Oracle will get very little out of it from a settlement perspective, and Google lacks even the clarity that a clear loss would have afforded it.
As quoted in the BI story, Google’s view is that, “We appreciate the jury’s efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that's for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims.”
There is still a long way to run in this argument, a point that was picked up on by reporter James Niccolai . “After the verdict was delivered Monday, the trial moved immediately into the patents phase of the case, with Oracle making its opening statement. The trial is in three parts, to address copyrights, patents, and any damages Oracle should receive. But although the patents phase is under way, the copyright phase is far from concluded. As well as the outstanding issue of fair use, Judge William Alsup, who is hearing the case, must decide whether Oracle's Java APIs (application programming interfaces) can be copyrighted at all under U.S. law.”
A quick follow up on Yahoo
As at the time of writing, Scott Thomson still had his job at Yahoo. And the spin coming out of the company suggests that the board hasn’t yet written him off as a lost cause. But it’s hard to see how this ends any other way but badly. Either the boss gets tossed or the brand gets tainted. Now, if you and I were directors of Yahoo, this would be the easiest choice in the world.
For a flavor of how this is playing out in the Valley, check out this story on <i>Business Insider</i>, “The Smartest People In Tech Are Ridiculing Scott Thompson And Yahoo”. That title alone tells you everything you need to know.
Andrew Birmingham is the CEO of Silicon Gully Investments. Follow him on Twitter @ag_birmingham.