Google vs Oracle: Jury torn but case plows on

Google and Oracle may be unable to decide who is the victor after the latest jury decision in the Android Java trial, but even with no clear decision on fair use the case moves on now to whether Oracle's Sun patents have been infringed. Presiding Judge Alsup accepted no delay in the momentum of the suit, shifting attention to the second phase of what is expected to be a three step process: first copyright infringement, then patents, and finally a decision on what damages – if any – are appropriate. Google, meanwhile, is demanding a mistrial based on the jury's inability to decide one way or the other.

That could yet prove a contentious point. Judge Alsup made clear that, despite the jury's initial ruling that Android overstepped the mark on Java copyrights, that decision is groundless if a decision around fair-use doesn't go Oracle's way. If adopting Java technology is deemed to be within the realm of fair-use, there will be "zero finding of copyright liability" the judge told legal teams from both firms.

Exactly when that decision will be made is unclear, but it looks likely that Alsup will rule on fair-use during the third stage of the trial process. Before that, there's the matter of two Oracle patents Google is accused of infringing, though any damages that could arise from a guilty decision would likely be considerably less hefty than Oracle was initially hoping for.

In its favor, though, is the fact that use of patents cannot be considered fair-use. The jury decided Google had used a handful of Java code in among its own work on Android, but as Google pointed out it was only from the elements of Java that Oracle was already allowing companies to use freely. That didn't wash with Oracle's lawyers, however. "Google knew it needed a license" it said in a statement yesterday, "[and] its unauthorized fork of Java in Android shattered Java's central write once run anywhere principle."

If the first stage of the trial has gone generally in Google's favor, the second may not be so kind to the search giant. Oracle's patent portfolio is huge, and while the initial phase concentrates on just a few of these, there's still plenty of room for the two firms to get bogged down in red tape.