Google breached Oracle’s patent on the Java programming language, a jury has found in the ongoing patent hearing over Google Android between the two Silicon Valley giants.
But jurors couldn't agree on whether this constituted fair use under copyright law. If such a defence is made, it could see Google escape damages of $1bn for infringing Oracle’s copyright of the Java language used in Google's Android mobile operating system (OS).
"There has been zero finding of liability on any copyright so far," the BBC reported the US District Court Judge William Alsup told lawyers. "The affirmative defence of fair use is still in play."
Oracle acquired the rights to Java when it acquired Sun Microsystems $7.4 billion in 2010. Java is free for anyone to use without a licence, but the case focused on Google’s use of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow developers to write Java-compatible code. Google denies infringing Oracle’s patents, claiming that APIs are also not covered by copyright.
The trial has lasted five days but is expected to continue for two months. So far, jurors have seen evidence from Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison, Google chief executive Larry Page and Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt.
Adam Rose, partner at law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner, said the dispute will come down to whether permission was granted by Oracle, as the company had no formal licensing agreement in place.
“I suspect this will end in an out-of-court settlement to avoid the costs of litigation, with Google making a commercial decision to make a payment,” he commented on the pending trial last year.