Oracle desperate for win against Android

Caroline Gabriel/Wireless Watch
20 Jan 2012

Oracle is so desperate to get a conclusion to its legal battle with Google that it is willing to suspend or even forgo patent claims, as long as it can fight its copyright case this spring. This indicates the urgency with which key IPR players are looking to establish their position in the rapidly expanding smartphone industry, but while the Java-Android dispute goes to the heart of the Google platform, other attacks, mainly by Apple, are looking increasingly gratuitous

The year has started with more of the same in the mobile patents war – Samsung and Apple hurling more injunction claims at one another, ups and downs for both Android and Apple in US and European courts. The main new development came in the Oracle case against Google, which potentially has more far-reaching implications for Android's cost base and liabilities than the other actions, since it goes to Java IPR at the heart of the Google OS.

This week, Oracle seemed to grow tired of the repeated delays in the case, and said it was willing to drop its patent infringement claims if the court would fast-track its other case, which alleges copyright infringement against Java.

Oracle presumably thinks this case will be easier to win and could still gain it a significant settlement from Google, and recognition of the fundamental role Java plays in many software platforms. As patents expert Florian Mueller wrote on his Foss Patents blog, Oracle's primary objective is to get an injunction against Android handsets. Unlike Apple, the database vendor is not after killing Android per se, but an injunction would force Google to negotiate, thus allowing Oracle to assert its own position as a power broker in mobile software, as well as monetizing the Java assets its acquired with Sun.

Mueller wrote: “Oracle's priorities are clear: more than anything else, it wants an injunction. Oracle wants that injunction as soon as possible, and it is willing to bet, in the near term, on the copyright part of its case.” The database firm would rather, of course, return to the patent allegations later, but is willing to give them up altogether to get a quick hearing.

In a filing submitted on Tuesday, Oracle proposes three possible measures to accelerate the progress of its case. Its preferred route is for the court to “sever and stay” its patent claims and set a trial date for the copyright allegations for this spring. During the time the copyright claims were being heard, Oracle would work on a third attempt to come up with an estimate of the damages it would seek for patent infringement, and then the patent case could be heard at a later date.

The damages issue is one of the major factors delaying the hearing. Last week, Judge William Alsup postponed the trial again, and said he would not set a new one until Oracle “adopts a proper damages methodology.”

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