Florian Mueller, who is doing yeoman's work for media by poring over meat and minutiae in the legal salvos between Oracle and Google over Android, has dug up some new meat from the latest filing in the patent infringement case.
That is that Google has signaled a willingness (or resignation) to pay Oracle some cash for its use of Java technology, whose patents Oracle owns through the acquisition of Sun Microsystems. This is a departure from Google's earlier posturing that it shouldn't pay.
Mueller alighted on this sentence from Google in its filing:
"Such a narrowed case will also eliminate the need for those efforts specifically directed at the claims rejected through reexamination, including motion practice, expert reports, and other trial preparation, as well as make it more likely that the parties could reach an informal resolution of the matter."
That's so much legal mumbo jumbo to non-lawyers like myself, but Mueller said the part about the "informal resolution of the matter" means that:
"Google is prepared to settle with Oracle and make one or more payments in that event, but apparently the parties' positions are too far apart at this stage because Oracle is too confident of its ability to command a high royalty rate (presumably a high per-unit royalty)."
Mueller added that this is an indication Google "isn't so sure of its defenses anymore." Eek.
I realize a lot has to happen between now and the trial that is three months away. Few legal eagles expect the judge to execute a stay in the case, so I'm going to assume Oracle will win and win billions of dollars in damages and possibly licensing fees. The questions then include:
Will it be enjoined from provisioning Android? If it avoids an injunction and agrees to license the Java technology, how much will it pay Oracle per year? Will it be cost-prohibitive? Will Android OEMs have to pay a per device license fee? Will OEMs turn to Windows because of this? My God, there are a lot of unknowns.
I ask these questions both as a journalist and as an Android phone/tablet owner, and then I come to other questions: What will it mean, if anything, for the products I already own? Will Google have to charge for certain products to sustain Android?
These are important questions, whose answers are far from assured at this juncture.
And that's just the software side. HTC lost a considerable point in its patent infringement case versus Apple as the International Trade Commission said HTC infringed on two of the 10 patents Apple had filed in March 2010.
If ITC were to claim HTC infringed on either patent, HTC's products would be banned from coming into the United States. That would not only choke off HTC's Android supply here, but set a dangerous precedent for Samsung, Motorola and others.
And seeing as how Samsung, Motorola and HTC sell the lion's share of Android phones in the United States and around the world, that means the platform is in trouble.