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Oracle v. Google Java trial moves to patent phase

Stupidity of software patents on display
Wed May 09 2012, 12:08

THE TRIAL between Oracle and Google stumbled into its second phase yesterday with Oracle asserting that Google infringed its Java patents.

After Oracle gained a partial jury verdict that said Google infringed Java API copyrights, although the jury couldn't decide on the issue of Fair Use, the trial has moved on to the second phase, which will decide whether Google's Dalvik virtual machine infringes two of Oracle's Java patents.

Oracle initially claimed that Google's Android operating system and in particular its Dalvik virtual machine infringed seven of its patents, however in pretrial proceedings, four of those patents were invalidated by the US Patent and Trademark Office and one was excluded from the case by US District Court Judge William Alsup, leaving only US Patents 6,061,520 and RE38,104, which are referred to in the trial as the '520 and '104 patents.

As Groklaw points out, there was a time when Oracle didn't believe in software patents, but those times have long gone. Oracle has tried to claim billions in damages from Google, a hefty sum for a company that once said "patent protection [should] be eliminated for computer software and computer software algorithms". However, if Oracle prevails in this lawsuit the actual damages are expected to be several orders of magnitude lower.

Judge William Alsup still has to rule on whether Java APIs can be copyrighted, which has implications that reach far beyond Google and Android. As for Google's monetary liability in the alleged patent infringement part of the case, given how far Oracle's potential damages have been whittled down before trial, even if Oracle wins it could end up with a net loss after paying its lawyers. µ


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