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Jury to Decide Winner of Java Copyright Joust

Jury to Decide Winner of Java Copyright Joust

The law seems to be on Oracle's side in the copyright dispute over Google's use of Java code in Android. However, Google has a shot at appealing to the jurors' emotions, suggested Klemchuk Kubasta attorney Casey Griffith. Jurors might respond to Google's suggestions that Oracle's actions were based on business motives other than protecting intellectual property. "After all, if the original owner didn't think it was being ripped off by Google, why should Oracle?"

By Erika Morphy
05/01/12 10:26 AM PT

The Oracle and Google legal teams delivered their closing arguments Monday in the high-profile trial over allegations Google violated Oracle's copyright on Java, and the case was sent to the jury.

Their respective lines of reasoning built on developments brought to light in the trial, with the usual oratory flourishes attorneys tend to indulge in.

Oracle's argument, presented by attorney Michael Jacobs, is that Google knew it needed a license for Java and ultimately opted not to get one. The proof offered during the trial consisted of emails circulated among Google staff and execs discussing whether licensing should be pursued, as well as Google's attempts to forge a relationship with Sun Microsystems so it would have the right to use Java, among other signs.

Google attorney Robert Van Nest took pains to emphasize that the original owner of the copyrights, Sun Microsystems, approved of Google's use of the Java code. The only reason Oracle is suing Google, he maintained, is because it couldn't develop its own smartphone strategy.

With the first part of the case sent to the jury -- the question of whether Google infringed an Oracle patent will be considered next -- Oracle and Google have little more to say.

Oracle did not respond to our request for further details. Google spokesperson Jim Prosser told the E-Commerce Times that the jury will consider the issues put before them by the judge.

Leaning Toward Oracle

Taken together, the evidence appears to favor Oracle, Casey Griffith, an attorney with Klemchuk Kubasta, told the E-Commerce Times.

Witnesses during the trial made several admissions damaging to Google's case, he said.

"Oracle was also able to fairly characterize that the Android platform was based on Java," Griffith noted.

On the other hand, the fact that Oracle is not the original developer of Java -- and that Sun Microsystems appeared to have approved of Google's use of its copyright before it was acquired by Oracle -- should carry some weight with the jury, he acknowledged.

The jury also might be responsive to Google's suggestions that Oracle's actions were based on business motives other than outrage over the supposed theft of its intellectual property, suggested Griffith. "After all, if the original owner didn't think it was being ripped off by Google, why should Oracle?"

Although it might resonate with the jury, that point of view isn't necessarily correct, he noted. "Fact is, a new owner will have a different way of viewing the market and may want to capitalize its new assets differently."

Ultimately, the jury may split the baby, he said -- finding for Oracle but awarding small damages.

'Of Course Google Needed a License'

From a strictly legal perspective, the case should be a slam dunk, Kevin C. Taylor, partner at Schnader Harrison, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Of course Google needed a license," he said. "Even if you give something away for free, you still own the copyright, and when Oracle acquired Sun, it also acquired that copyright."

The closing statements by Google's attorney seemed designed to inflame emotions, said Taylor. "Those are off-the-cuff public marketing statements that should have less weight with a jury."

The Judge's Directions

The jury also has to navigate Judge William Alsup's final instructions, Taylor noted.

Alsup defined copyright as protection of an "expression of ideas" -- not procedures, processes, systems, methods of operation, concepts, principles or discoveries.

Oracle's copyrights cover the "structure, sequence and organization" of the code underpinning Java, he added.

How the members of the jury will interpret the judge's instructions as they mull over the evidence is anyone's guess, Taylor said.

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