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Jury favors Oracle in mega-millions Android lawsuit -- sort of

  • April 18, 2012: Google CEO Larry Page walks into a federal building in San Francisco to testify in a legal battle against Oracle. A day earlier, Oracle CEO Larry Ellison acknowledged he wanted to compete against Android in the smartphone market before deciding instead to sue his potential rival for copyright and patent infringement.AP Photo/Eric Risberg

  • April 17, 2012: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison arrives for a court appearance at a federal building in San Francisco. Oracle relied heavily on Google's own internal emails to argue Google's top executives knew they were stealing a popular piece of technology to build the Android software.AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

The tech trial of the century is wrapping up -- but the winner is anyone's guess. 

Oracle had been seeking up to $1 billion in damages on copyright claims after alleging that Google built its popular Android mobile software by stealing some of the technology from Java, a programming platform that Oracle Corp. bought two years ago.

In delivering a partial verdict Monday, the jury found that Google infringed on the largest of Oracle's claims, but it couldn't agree on whether Google's use was legally protected "fair use." 

SUMMARY

TECH TRIAL OF THE CENTURY: Oracle has accused Google of patent infringement over Google's Android, the mobile OS that now powers more than 300 million smartphones and tablets.

Jan. 27, 2010: Oracle closes deal to buy Sun Microsystems, gets the Java programming language.

Aug. 12: Oracle sues Google in U.S. District Court, says Android infringes on Java.

Sept. 12, 2011: Company CEOs are ordered to attend mediation to settle the lawsuit.

March 27, 2012: In a joint statement, companies say they are far apart. Oracle seeks hundreds of millions in damages, Google won't pay more than a few million.

April 16: Trial begins. In opening statements, Oracle says Google's top executives have long known that they stole a key piece of tech.

April 17: Google's opening statements frame the case as Oracle's response to its own failure to build mobile software. Oracle CEO Larry Ellison admits he wanted to compete before deciding instead to sue Google.

April 18: Google's Larry Page returns to the witness stand, looking uncomfortable as he deflected questions about his role. 

May 1: Lawyers make closing arguments on the copyright issues. Judge sends case to jury for deliberation.

Without that determination, it will be difficult for Oracle to win major damages -- making the ruling a victory of sorts for the company, but one that will clearly frustrate. Reached after the verdict, the company was gracious but firm.

"Oracle, the nine million Java developers, and the entire Java community thank the jury for their verdict in this phase of the case," Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger told FoxNews.com. 

Hellinger described the ruling as clear win for the company.

"The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that Google knew it needed a license and that its unauthorized fork of Java in Android shattered Java's central write once run anywhere principle. Every major commercial enterprise -- except Google -- has a license for Java and maintains compatibility to run across all computing platforms."

Google appeared to also view the mixed decision in what was clearly a complex case as a win.

"We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin," a Google spokeswoman told FoxNews.com. "The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that's for the court to decide."

"We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle's other claims," she said.

The jury also found that Google infringed on Oracle's copyright on nine lines of Java code that is in Android, but Oracle can only go after statutory damages on that one. Those damages can range from $200 to $150,000 -- peanuts relative to Oracle's goals in the case.

Meanwhile, Google is moving for a mistrial.

The same jury will now hear evidence in the next phase of the trial, covering Oracle's allegations that Android violates two Java patents. Those claims are believed to be worth considerably less to Oracle than the hundreds of millions of dollars in damages that it had hoped to extract from Google had it prevailed on all of its all of its allegations of copyright infringement, according to a report from the Associated Press.

Oracle bought Sun and Sun's Java technology in early 2010. Later that year, Oracle sued Google, alleging Android infringes copyrights and patents that protect Java. 

The companies went to trial in San Francisco earlier this month. And Oracle's case had initially appeared rock solid.

Ahead of testimony by senior executive Larry Ellison, Oracle released a series of quotes from senior Google executives suggesting they knew they were treading on thin legal ice.

“If Sun doesn’t want to work with us, we have two options: 1) Abandon our work … -or- 2) Do Java anyway and defend our decision, perhaps making enemies along the way,” Google senior vice president of mobile Andy Rubin reportedly emailed to co-founder Larry Page on Oct. 11, 2005.

Rubin then suggested to Page that the company pay Sun for a license to the technology -- an action Google never took. Subsequent emails appear to show various Google employees covering up the use of Java.

“How aggressive do we scrub the J word?,” former Google software engineer Dan Bornstein apparently wrote.

It seems the jury had questions as well.