Oracle Patent Decision, Motorola Acquisition Give Google Reasons to Cheer

NEWS ANALYSIS: Beset by legal challenges at home and abroad, Google on May 23 had plenty of reasons to celebrate after a federal court jury voted unanimously that it hadn’t infringed any of Oracle’s Patents on the Java language. The decision came a day after Google closed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility after a prolonged regulatory review of the deal.

Google CEO Larry Page is going to have to mark the third week of May on his calendar, and he might be justified in observing it with an annual company celebration.

For on this particular week, Google finally got all of the government approvals it needed and closed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. The following day, Google learned that a federal court jury decided that it didn€™t infringe on Oracle€™s patents. Google agreed to buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion in early November 2011 and had since been waiting for federal authorities to clear the deal.

The result is that Google Android business, operating since 2010 under something of a cloud while Oracle€™s patent infringement lawsuit made its way through the legal system, now finds the sun is shining again on its high-flying mobile operating system. And even better, Google is finding itself in the corporate version of the catbird seat when it comes to mobile devices.

This pair of events means that Google is now free to challenge Apple head-on for phone dominance. By buying Motorola, Google also managed to nab a collection of 17,000 mobile device patents, which should protect it against any infringement cases Apple might bring up. In fact, it might give Google new ways to make sure Apple€™s lawyers are busier than ever. So now Google has a phone manufacturing company (complete with Chinese employees), a warehouse full of patents, significantly more control over Android, and no fears of having anything derailed by Oracle.

While it€™s true that Oracle could appeal the May 23 jury decision, it€™s unlikely to be successful. Federal courts have long determined that unless some sort of defect in the jury€™s deliberations (like a juror taking bribes) can be found, they rarely overturn the findings of juries.

Oracle could also ask that its copyright case against Google be retried, since the jury hung on the question of fair use in its copyright infringement suit. But first the federal judge in the case will rule on whether APIs (the code in question in the copyright case) can be copyrighted at all. Right now, Oracle€™s chances of getting anything like a substantial damage award out of the copyright case look pretty slim.

In other words, Google is on track to be just like Apple€“it controls the operating system, it controls a phone handset manufacturer and it has its own app store. But despite the similarity, Google won€™t be another Apple. While there€™s no question that Google will make sure that its Motorola phones run the latest version of Android and that they aren€™t subject to the kind of fragmentation that€™s plagued Android in the past, Google still has to hold on to its partners.

After all, it€™s those partners, including giants like HTC and Samsung, that helped Android become the top selling mobile operating system on Earth. This is something that Apple has chosen not to do and it€™s the reason why Android will continue to gain market share over iOS devices.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...