Google Urged to Settle with Oracle in Android Patent Case

By Joseph Mandour on September 27, 2011

iPhoneLos Angeles – A long-running patent infringement lawsuit between Oracle and Google is slated to go to trial in October, however the two parties have been ordered by a judge to come to an agreement beforehand.

The original complaint, filed in a U.S. district court in San Francisco, had Oracle accusing Google of infringing on Sun Microsystems’ Java technology related to the design of the Android technology. Oracle is particularly interested in the alleged infringement since it purchased Sun Microsystems last year. Google has denied any patent infringement and maintains that makers of mobile phones and other users of the open-sourced Android operating system should be entitled to use the Java technology at issue. Furthermore, Google insists that before Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle, it had declared that Java would be open-sourced, allowing any software developer to use it.

While it was reported that a week of talks between Google CEO Larry Page and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hadn’t produced much breakthrough, it is interesting that Oracle agreed that it would reduce the amount of damages it would seek at a trial from $6.1 billion, an amount rejected by the judge, to $1.2 billion. That would be a much easier pill to swallow for Google, even though it denies the infringement.

Oracle argues that a key piece of Android technology, the Dalvik virtual machine, copied features from the Java patent. Oracle is seeking damages and royalties related to Google’s use of the technology, which Google argues is not covered by the patents at issue. If it hopes to avoid the claims, Google will have to prove that it didn’t need a license to Java before deciding to proceed with its Android project.

Another dark cloud hanging over Google is an email exchange between company engineers, reading:

“What we have actually been asked to do by Larry [Page] and Sergey [Brin] is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java for Android and Chrome. We’ve been over a bunch of these and think they all suck. We conclude that we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need.”

With patent trials being long, expensive, and sometimes damaging to a company’s reputation, it might be wise for Google to settle with Oracle before the jury gets a hold of it. It’s clear that Google ignored the recommendations from its engineers to obtain a license for Java. The email is not quite a smoking gun, but it definitely makes Google look bad and would likely color a trial against Google.

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Posted in: Patent Infringement