Oracle has to lower its starting point for damages versus Google to $100 million, but it gets to interview Google CEO Larry Page to help the court determine whether Google willfully infringed on Java patents Oracle now owns.
Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) received some bittersweet news July 21 in its patent
infringement case against Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) over Android.
The bitter end is that Oracle was ordered to lower its
damages claim against Google in the case, from as much as $6.1 billion to a
starting point of $100 million, according to Computerworld
On the sweet end, the software maker learned it could
depose Google CEO Larry Page for up to two hours to help the court determine if
the search engine willfully infringed on Oracle's patents.
The bitter and the sweet are importantly related, as a
finding by the court of willful infringement may result in a tripling of
damages Google would have to pay Oracle. Given the numbers above, hundreds of
millions is lot better than tens of billions.
Oracle sued Google last August
, alleging that its Android operating system violates
seven patents, related to Java, which the company acquired through its purchase
of Sun Microsystems. While Google has denied any infringement, it recently signaled some merit to the matter
when it indicated it would be willing to pay
Oracle to settle.
U.S. District Judge William Alsup July 21 took both Oracle and Google
to task at a hearing where he told both parties to
be more reasonable in their requests for resolution of the Java patent case.
That chiding turned more serious July 21. Alsup told Oracle
its expert, Boston University professor Iain Cockburn, overshot reasonable
damages estimates in the case. He ordered Oracle to ratchet down the
multi-billion-dollar estimates, warning that it had once more chance to provide
a fair damage estimate at the risk of Oracle having it excluded.
However, he also agreed with Cockburn that advertising
revenue Google earns from Android phones does contribute to Android's value.
Perhaps the biggest news is that Alsup agreed with Oracle
that it should be allowed to question new Google CEO Page on the willful
"Oracle may depose [Google co-founder and CEO] Mr.
Page for a maximum of two hours, excluding breaks, solely on topics relevant to
the willfulness of Defendant's alleged patent infringement, and the value of
Android to Defendant," Alsup wrote.
Page's testimony, in which Oracle's attorneys will bid to
show he was aware the company was in dark territory by not acquiring a license
for Java technology from Sun before Android launched in 2007, is crucial. Alsup
cautioned that "there is a substantial possibility that a permanent
injunction will be granted" if it is found guilty of infringement.
An injunction could be tough for Google, as intellectual
property expert Florian Mueller noted
: "With an injunction, Oracle would have the leverage
to negotiate with Google a license deal that could result in a very high
Alsup currently has penciled in an Oct. 31 trial date for the case.