Saturday, March 10, 2012

Oracle Forced To Drop Software Patents To Pursue Software Copyrights

Recall that Oracle sued Google for both copyright infringement and patent infringement based, allegedly, on Google's use of the JAVA technology in the Android phone operating system. At the time that suit was filed, I'm certain the thinking was that those Oracle software patents would be the strongest part of the case. That's what everyone thinks: software patents are supposed to be how companies protect their software, right?
Oracle Drops Software Patents For Software CopyrightsWell, that used to be true. As far as I can tell, judicial activism and toothless legislation have evicerated whatever value software patents used to have. These days, software patent claims are more noted for their failures than their victories. Even when software patent cases win they lose. In short, software patents are a thing of the past.
Oracle seems to be smacked right in the face with that dose of reality. After suing Google, Oracle's software patents have been systematically deconstructed until, essentially, nothing remains. Earlier this year, Oracle asked the judge to just separate out its patent case from the software copyright case to speed up trial. Oracle asked that it be allowed to purse its patent case separately. Recently, the judge denied that request and forced Oracle to choose: patents or copyrights, but not both, at least not if Oracle wants a trial anytime in the near future.
Yesterday, Oracle faced today's reality and made the hard decision. Oracle asked the judge to drop its patent case against Google for good. And why not? Oracle has had huge success enforcing its copyrights against competitors. The software patents in this case have been a distraction, not an advantage.
Are software copyrights the right way to protect all software? Probably not. But copyrights should definitely be taken into consideration when formulating your software protection strategy. And with all the emphasis being place on stronger copyright law, and weaker patent laws, perhaps you should be speaking with your copyright lawyer first, rather than last.