Jury may be deadlocked in Oracle-Google trial

The jury has been unable to reach a decision in four days and asked 'what happens if we can't reach a unanimous decision'

The jury may have reached a deadlock in the copyright phase of Oracle’s intellectual property lawsuit against Google, although the judge cautioned against jumping to any conclusions.

“What happens if we can't reach a unanimous decision and people are not budging?” one of the jurors asked in a written note sent to the judge late Thursday afternoon.

The 12 jurors have been deliberating the copyright phase of Oracle's lawsuit against Google since Monday, and they need to be unanimous in any verdict they reach.

It’s not necessarily the case that the jury is deadlocked, Judge William Alsup [cq] told the two legal teams before the jury was brought into the courtroom to hear the answer to their question.

"This is not the foreperson writing it," Alsup told the lawyers, referring to the jury's appointed spokesperson, "and second, it doesn't say they have deadlocked, it says 'what happens if.'"

Still, he outlined several options for the lawyers if the jury is in fact deadlocked.

The trial in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California is in three parts, the first to hear Oracle's copyright claims, then its patent claims, then any damages Oracle should receive. One option is to move to the patent phase of the trial and then retry the copyright phase at a later time, Alsup said.

Also, he noted, the jury is deciding several questions just for the copyright phase of the trial, including whether Google infringed Oracle's copyrights, and if so, whether that infringement was protected by "fair use."

"My tentative view of this is, if they have reached a partial verdict [in the copyright phase], we should get as much potential benefit out of whatever they have done and then move to the second phase," the judge said.

He brought the jury back into the room and gave them some encouragement that they might eventually reach a verdict.

"You're dealing with many hundreds of exhibits and many witnesses over a pretty long period of time, and it's not unusual for people to disagree," the judge told the jurors.

"This is not as simple as who ran a red light," Alsup said.

"Go home and get a good night's rest and come back and start again in the morning," he told them.

Meanwhile, each legal team will consider how it would like to proceed in the event the jury can't reach a decision.

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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