Jury nears verdict in Oracle-Google trial over Android

The jury has reached an impasse over one copyright-related question, so the judge gave them more time to deliberate

The jury has reached a partial verdict in the copyright phase of Oracle's intellectual property dispute with Google, and the judge has given them one more day to try to resolve the remaining issue.

The jury foreman told the court on Friday that the 12-member panel had reached unanimous agreement on all but one of the questions on the verdict form, but that they're at an "impasse" over that final issue.

The verdict form has four questions, each broken into multiple parts. The judge had indicated previously he would accept a partial verdict from the jury, so there was tension in the courtroom Friday when it appeared the jury was about to reveal their decisions.

But after a few minutes of discussion, Judge William Alsup decided there was hope that the jury might be able to agree on the final question after a break for the weekend. They will reconvene on Monday at 8 a.m. to try to complete their deliberations.

The jury didn't disclose which question it couldn't agree on, so the attorneys will have to wait until Monday to find out.

"OK, I'll let you go home and speculate," Alsup told the two legal teams after the jury had been dismissed, getting a chuckle from the courtroom.

Oracle accuses Google of infringing its Java patents and copyrights in Google's Android OS. Google denies any wrongdoing, saying it developed a clean-room version of Java and built Android without using Oracle's protected code.

The trial is being heard in three phases. Lawyers made their closing arguments in the copyright portion of the trial Monday morning, and the jury has been in deliberations ever since. The next phase, expected to start next week, will address Oracle's patent claims, and the final phase will determine any damages it should be awarded.

The jury indicated Thursday evening that they might have reached a deadlock in their copyright deliberations, but the judge told them to keep trying. Just before 1 p.m. Pacific Time Friday, they sent a note to the judge saying they were ready to deliver a partial verdict.

Before the jury entered the courtroom, the judge asked the lawyers how they wanted to proceed.

"They've worked hard, they've asked good questions, and if they have a partial verdict, we should take that," Michael Jacobs, an attorney for Oracle, told the judge. Google's Robert Van Nest agreed.

But after the jury entered, the foreman told Alsup that a minority of the jury had not wanted to send the note saying they had reached a partial decision. Those jurors believed there was hope of resolving all the issues after the weekend.

After some discussion with the lawyers out of the jury's earshot, Alsup told them that if there was hope of reaching a full verdict, they should continue to try.

The first question on the verdict form, seen as the most important, is about whether Google's use of 37 Java APIs in Android infringed Oracle's Java copyrights. Part "B" of that question asks, if Google did infringe, was its infringement covered by "fair use," which permits copying under limited circumstances.

The next two questions deal with Google's alleged infringement of Oracle's Java API documentation, and some line-by-line copying of a small amount of code into Android. The fourth asks whether public statements from Sun suggesting it supported Android's development were sufficient to make Google believe it didn't need a license for Java.

The judge didn't want the jury to reveal its verdict for any of the questions they had answered, but he asked if the question on which they had reached an impasse was among the first three, and the foreman told him it was.

The judge has yet to decide how he'll proceed if the jury has still reached only a partial verdict after Monday. The issue they can't agree upon may have to be tried again before a new jury, he said Friday.

James Niccolai covers data centers and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow James on Twitter at @jniccolai. James's e-mail address is james_niccolai@idg.com

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