Google did not infringe on the patent rights of database giant Oracle in its creation of the Android operating system, a San Francisco jury decided Wednesday, ending the long and bitter litigation between the two tech giants that began in 2010.
The jury foreman checked off "no (not proven)" eight times in answer to claims by Redwood Shores, Calif.,-based Oracle that Google infringes on two of its patents.
Earlier Verdict On Copyrights
Oracle, however, did win in an earlier phase of the trial, decided on May 7, when the jury sided with Oracle's separate claim that Google infringed on some copyrights, to a small degree. Judge William Alsup of U.S. District Court in Northern California will decide after a break for Memorial Day weekend whether any damages will be awarded in that claim. Oracle's original claim was for $6.1 billion in damages, but Alsup ordered that the estimate be revised, and in February Oracle revised the figure to $230 million. The original claim involved six patents.
The judge must also make a determination on whether copyright law applies to application program interfaces, which will affect whether damages can be awarded.
The case centered on the Java programming language that became Oracle's property when it purchased Sun Microsystems. Oracle insisted that the open-source Android, now the most popular operating system in both the domestic and global markets, could not have been created without Java, with Google even hiring engineers who worked on Java, while Google insisted it instead used a language called Apache Harmony.
The trial brought top executives of both companies to the stand, including Google CEO Larry Page and Oracle CEO Lawrence Ellison, and led to some interesting moments and revelations, such as when Judge Alsup read a memo that revealed Google's claim that it made no net income from Android in 2010.
In a statement published by The New York Times, Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger suggested the company will appeal.
"Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java," she said. "We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java's core 'write once run anywhere' principle and ensure it is protected for the 9 million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility."
Victory for Android Ecosystem
Google spokesman Jim Prosser sent us a statement saying, "Today's jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle's patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem."
Notwithstanding the earlier verdict and potential appeal, technology analyst Charles King of Pund-IT sees Wednesday's verdict as a crushing blow to Oracle in the case.
"Not only did the jury fundamentally disagree with Oracle's claims but also appeared to repudiate the essential reasoning behind the company's pursuit of damages," King said. "That could impact other claims by Oracle but may also affect and perhaps discourage similar IP litigation in the future."
King added that the case proved that "even cases centering on highly complex technological issues can be successfully parsed and determined with willing, disciplined reasoning."
Image credit: iStock/United States Patent and Trademark Office Department of Commerce.