The ongoing legal battle between Oracle and Google has come one step closer to a head, with the presiding judge setting a date for the trial to begin in March and ruling on several motions that give both sides mini victories.
Jan. 4 was a busy day for the parties in the Oracle versus Google patent infringement lawsuit. U.S. District Judge William Alsup said the case will go to a jury trial that will start on or after March 19, 2012. The trial had originally been set to start on Oct. 31, 2011, but was postponed because of scheduling conflicts with the court.
Oracle had recently asked the court to begin the trial as early as January, while Google was fine with waiting until at least July for the trial to begin. Oracle's claim was that the longer the company waits for relief from Google's alleged patent infringement, the more time Google has to reap rewards from the increasing consumer adoption of Android devices.
Alsup also stuck to his earlier proposal for a three-part, or trifurcated, trial. The first part of the trial will deal with the copyright infringement claims of the case, the second part will deal with patent infringement claims, and the third part will deal with "all remaining issues," including "damages and willfulness," said Florian Mueller, author of FOSS Patents, who has been watching the case closely. Oracle and Google have seven days to file objections to the judge's pretrial order.
Meanwhile, perhaps going to the issue of "willfulness," Alsup ruled on Jan. 4 that a possibly incriminating email by Google engineer Tim Lindholm could be entered into evidence. Google had argued that the Lindholm email should not be admitted into the case because it was subject to attorney-client privilege or work-product rules.
Alsup shot that argument down for the sixth time, Mueller said. Google had argued that Lindholm was not in a position to analyze whether Android infringed on Oracle's Java patents. But the judge cited Lindholm's background, saying he was "quite knowledgeable about Java and Android technology as separate platforms and any potential crossover between the two platforms." Lindholm joined Google from Sun Microsystems, which created Java, and he was part of the team that developed the Java language and platform.
The Lindholm email reads:
""What we've 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.""
Earlier in the case, Alsup cited the potential importance of the Lindholm email, saying that all a competent lawyer might need is Lindholm's comments "and the Magna Carta" to argue that Google had willfully infringed on Oracle's patents. If found to have willfully infringed on Oracle's patents, Google could be forced to pay triple damages by the court.
In another important ruling, Alsup ruled that Oracle cannot exclude evidence relating to any ongoing U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) re-examinations of Oracle's patents claimed in the case. Google asked the USPTO to re-examine the Oracle patents. Recently, the USPTO came back with a "final" rejection of one of the Oracle patents in the case. However, Oracle has the right to appeal that decision and may yet do so.
In all, Alsup ruled on nine outstanding motions in the case, including denying an Oracle motion to exclude evidence or argument that third-party OEMs changed infringing components of Android and restricting Oracle's ability to present evidence obtained from Motorola Mobility, among other things.