While Apple and Samsung continue to sue each other silly, there's one big patent and copyright infringement case we tech reporters can take off of the books for 2011: Oracle versus Google, a case concerning Java patent and copyright infringement in Android.
The major case was supposed to go to trial this Monday, Oct. 31, but FOSS Patents blogger and IP guru Florian Mueller said Judge William Alsup, the federal judge presiding over Oracle's lawsuit against Google, triggered a "proposed trial plan," in which he stated the case won't take place this year.
Sounds simple, right? Far from it. The trial will have three phases.
The first phase will focus solely on Oracle's copyright infringement claims. The second phase would focus on patents. The third phase involves house cleaning of remaining issues, as well as decisions of damages and willfulness.
As in, the part where Google likely has to dig deep to pay Oracle for using Java software in Android with impunity the last three-plus years. Think $1.16 billion for starters: $176 million to $202 million for patent-infringement damages, between $102.6 million to $136.2 million for copyright-infringement damages and $823.9 million in infringer's profits.
We still don't know whether willfulness will be determined and what a trebling of damages will mean.
While three separate phases of a trial in which Google is forced to defend itself from copyright, patent and willfulness claims sounds anything but favorable, Mueller said the setup indeed is partial to Google:
"Google gets another benefit from a separate remedies trial: it may be able to present to the jury the USPTO's first Office actions according to which most of Oracle's asserted patent claims were preliminarily rejected. Google's argument would then be that the USPTO's first actions indicate (regardless of the fact that they're non-final) that Google had a reasonable basis for believing that Oracle's patents-in-suit were invalid. That might enable Google to avoid a finding of willful infringement."
That would mean not tripling of damages. So, perhaps $1 billion instead of $3 billion. Whatever the number, Google's closing of the Motorola Mobility deal for $12.5 billion probably can't come fast enough for the search engine provider.
While Motorola's patents won't help Google in its current litigation versus Oracle, it could help Google stave off future suits.
The wireless and other patents can simply be leveled like legal nuclear warheads at prospective litigants who want a piece of the fiscal flesh Oracle hopes to show can be carved from Google's meaty trunk.