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Oracle vs. Google jury was deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of Google on fair use decision

Oracle vs. Google jury was deadlocked 9 to 3 in favor of Google on fair use decision


The foreman of the jury in the Oracle vs. Google infringement trial spoke to reporters after the patent verdict came down this morning, providing a look into the dynamics of the jury, and the revelation that the deadlocked fair-use decision has been heavily in Google's favor.

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android robot doll (1020)

The jury returned its verdict in the patent phase of the Oracle vs. Google trial earlier this morning, and the jury's foreman has now provided some insight into the group's process — including the fact that the deadlocked vote on copyright fair use issue was heavily in favor of Google. Fremont resident Greg Thompson, 52, described a jury that was unpersuaded by Oracle's arguments, even though many members felt Google was not innocent of wrongdoing. "A lot of us had an underlying feeling that what Google had done was not quite right," Thompson told reporters, but given the narrow focus of the legal questions the jury were asked to address they didn't feel Oracle had presented enough evidence. In the copyright phase in particular, he said, one of the jurors kept waiting for "something he could chew on from Oracle. He was waiting for the steak, and all he got was the parsley."

"A lot of us had an underlying feeling that what Google had done was not quite right."

Even more damning are the results in the all-important issue of fair use. The jury found that Google had infringed Oracle's copyrights with its use of the structure, sequence, and organization of 37 Java APIs, but deadlocked on whether it was permissible under fair use. Thompson revealed that the final jury vote on the issue was nine to three in favor of Google. In fact, in the initial round of voting on the question Thompson had been the only juror siding with Oracle, though over the course of the deliberations he was able to draw two more jurors to his side. There are four different components that help determine whether a copyrighted work can be repurposed and covered under fair use. For the nine jurors that voted in favor of Google, Thompson said that the transformative nature of Android and the basic, functional nature of the APIs in question "carried the day."

The jury spent more than a week deliberating the patent infringement charges, sending out multiple questions per day. While they were noted in the courtroom as having been sent from a variety of jurors, Thompson revealed that the majority had been sent from him, or at his request (no doubt prompting Friday's query as to why a unanimous vote was required in the first place). As with the fair use issue, Thompson had sided with Oracle up until the very end, but decided to change his vote to bring the jury to the unanimous decision it reached this morning. "The nail that's poking up gets beat down," he said.

"Jury selection probably had a large role in the outcome"

Oracle faced an uphill mindshare battle from the start, with Google obviously the better-known brand, but while Thompson stated that there weren't any direct pro-Google statements made by jury members he certainly seemed to infer that the viewpoints of some could have helped the search giant. Thompson smiled when asked about the topic, finally saying that "jury selection probably had a large role in the outcome of the case," later adding that "the more tech-savvy a person is, the more difficult it might be to persuade them of something that limits, or could be perceived to limit, future expansion of what is seen as the common good." While Thompson conceded that this was his own personal take on the situation, it appeared to be a clear indication that Google's well-known open-source bona fides had influenced the decisions made by the jury — at least in Thompson's eyes.

The jury foreman was not a smartphone user

Due to the technical nature of much of the testimony, the jury had been asked to digest a number of nuanced details about Java, programming, and the Android's Dalvik virtual machine. As for the number of tech-savvy jurors involved, Thompson said that smartphone users appeared to be in the minority, with no discernible platform preference (Thompson is not a smartphone user himself). The tech-savvy individuals were able to actively persuade others to align with them, however. "A number of jurors didn't take a real active part in the deliberations," Thompson said, describing them as "sit back and wait and see types" that were persuaded by the smartphone users in the group. Views on software didn't appear to be the only influencing factor in play either, with Thompson suggesting that "a couple of jurors admired the younger attorney on the Google side" — Daniel Purcell — "maybe not only because he seemed to be a good attorney, but for other reasons."

Oracle's legal team watched Thompson speak with reporters — other jurors declined to comment to the press — and asked several questions themselves, including whether the existence of pre-Android smartphones utilizing Java APIs had weighed in the jury's fair use discussions. Oracle's team is no doubt already readying its strategy moving forward, something that Thompson appeared to be quite aware of: he wished Oracle's team "good luck with the appeal!" before he disappeared into the elevator.