Thursday, May 24, 2012

Google Defeats Oracle's Patent Claims

I have frequently commented on the Oracle v. Google case, which started out as a huge patent case but slowly became less of a patent case and more of a software copyright case. Recently, the copyright phase of the case concluded with Oracle winning a jury verdict of copyright infringement. As might be expected, the jury was unable to agree on whether Google's conduct was a "fair use." Still, a finding of infringement moves the copyright case on to the next phase: the judge must determine if Google has a fair use defense and any damages that might be due. Given the complexities of the fair use analysis, I don't envy the judge's job.
Google AndroidContrast that result with the verdict just handed down on the two remaining patent infringement claims: Google does not infringe Oracle's patents. If you are a reader of my blog, this should not come as a surprise to you. Oracle's patent case has been crumbling almost since the day it was filed. Oracle was left with only two patents of the seven originally in the case. One of those was resurrected from the dead when the Patent Office reversed its interim decision that the patent was actually invalid.
This case illustrates the point I frequently make: Software patents have run their course. Lots of people complain needlessly about so-called "patent trolls" gumming up the works. But Oracle is about as far from a "non-practicing entity" as a company can get. Are they a troll? At this point, real companies with real products and real patents are falling victim to all the hyperbole that has infected the entire patent system. A software company's only real protection is the copyright system.
One other thing is certain: Oracle's original estimate that Google would end up owing more than $2.6 Billion has likely evaporated. Google may still end up with substantial damages, but they will all be for copyright infringement.