Update: see the comment on the final judgment on the copyright protection of the API.
There has been a lot of noise in some areas of the Internet around what to make of the verdict that the jury has taken in the Oracle v. Google case.
For the benefit of the readers, here the questions and what the jury has answered. For Europeans, it is very odd to see a jury to decide in matters that are strongly legal in nature, but that's how it goes up there. Bear in mind, though, that the jury is only responsible for the assessment of the facts, it's up to the judge to have a final say about the law.
Also, bear in mind that the judge has instructed the jury to decide as if the API (Application Programming Interfaces) are a copyright subject, but that is just a speculative statement, the matter will be settled by the judge in its final decision.
1. As to the compilable code for the 37 Java API packages in question taken as a group:
A. Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed the overall structure, sequence and organization of copyrighted works?
B. Has Google proven that its use of the overall structure, sequence and organization constituted “fair use”?
2. As to the documentation for the 37 Java API packages in question taken as a group:
A. Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed?
No (2.b is then skipped, as per Judge's instructions)
3. Has Oracle proven that Google’s conceded use of the following was infringing, the only issue being whether such use was de minimis:
A. The rangeCheck method in
Yes B. Source code in seven “Impl.java”
files and the one “ACL” file
C. The English-language comments in
4. Answer the following special interrogatories only if you answer “yes” to Question 1A.
A. Has Google proven that Sun and/or Oracle engaged in conduct Sun and/or Oracle knew or should have known would reasonably lead Google to believe that it would not need a license to use the structure, sequence, and organization of the copyrighted compilable code?
B. If so, has Google proven that it in fact reasonably relied on such conduct by Sun and/or Oracle in deciding to use the structure, sequence, and organization of the copyrighted compilable code without obtaining a license?
So this is what was decided. The only clear infringement has been found in 3.A, and it's about some 9 lines of code. Not really much.
Of course the bearings of 1.A are way more important, but two major roadblocks must be removed first: whether the API as defined in 1.A are copyrighted matter in the first place. And if so, whether the use made by Google was “fair use”, which has a very broad meaning and involves a lot of factual and legal issues. On the factual issues the Jury has not decided, and Google has announced it would be moving for mistrial, hence, to re-start the trial from the beginning. If accepted by the judge (which is unlikely, I am told) that would only involve the copyright case, it will not span to the case about the patent violation, which is currently (as of the time I am writing) pending.
For a detailed recount of the day, including the verdict, see http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20120507122749740