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The judge presiding over Oracle’s (NASDAQ:ORCL) intellectual property trial against Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) has hinted that the jury may be deadlocked, noting that a juror sent a note asking him what happens if the panel can’t reach a unanimous decision.
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The trial centers on Java, a programming language created by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired in 2012. Within weeks of its acquisition, Oracle sued Google, claiming the search giant violated its copyrights and patents in building a new version of the platform for Android. Google claims the parts of Java it used aren’t covered by copyrights, and that its use of the free language was fair and legal.
That trial finally commenced on April 16, and since closing arguments on Tuesday, the jury has been trying to reach a verdict in the first phase of the trial, which covers the claims of copyright infringement. Jurors will have to decide first whether Google infrings copyrights, and then, if so, whether the copying was “fair use,” meaning it added something new or functional to java that is in the public interest. The second phase of the trial will cover the patent claims.
If the jury believes Google infringed in either case, there will be a third phase in which damages are determined. Oracle is seeking $1 billion and a court order blocking Google from distributing Android unless it pays for a license. Ultimately, though, Android’s profits would be used to compute damages owed, and Google claims its Android software lost money in 2010 and made only a small profit in the first half of last year. Evidence to that effect is still being scrutinized.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup sent the 12-member jury home yesterday with orders to return Friday to “start fresh.” He proposed to Oracle and Google’s lawyers that they accept a partial verdict if there are questions the panel agrees on, and said the trial should move into the second phase.
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