Google, Oracle and Java: from a patent spat to a copyright conundrum


Google's use of Java APIs in Android has been the subject of a long-running legal dispute with Oracle. Larry Ellison's team believes Google needs to pay up for exploiting Oracle IP and has pursued that line of reasoning in the courts, arguing multiple counts of patent infringement. Finding little success on that front, Oracle's case has since refocused around a contention of copyright infringement, which forms the crux of the company's argument in the April trial scheduled to resolve the dispute.

47 updates and 6466 comments below.

May 09 1:53p

Federal court overturns Google v. Oracle decision, setting disastrous precedent

Today, a federal court overturned an earlier ruling that allowed Google rights to build Oracle's Java API into Android, setting a broad precedent that already has many legal scholars crying foul. If the ruling stands, it will give software companies copyright over their APIs, the interfaces that programs use to communicate with each other. The new standard is good news for Oracle, which holds the rights to Java and its widely used API, but potentially disastrous for software developers that...

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Sep 05 8:40a

Oracle to pay Google $1.13m in legal costs following failed Android lawsuit

Oracle has been ordered to pay Google $1,130,350 in legal costs following the broad failure of its long-running patent and copyright infringement lawsuit over Android. Google had originally asked for more than $4 million to cover the total costs of the quixotic suit, including significant fees for a third-party e-discovery service paid to surface and copy relevant documents. While the payment was cut back by Judge William Alsup, he was unequivocal in declaring Google the "prevailing party" in...

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Aug 27 11:31a

Google discloses paid bloggers and journalists, says Stanford professor Mark Lemley is outside counsel

Google has followed up with a judge's order to disclose anyone it might have paid to influence coverage of its trial against Oracle, and the list includes a well-known Stanford professor who is often quoted without mentioning his relationship to Google. Google had initially told the court it hadn't paid anyone to comment on the case, but the judge ruled Google had "failed to comply" with his request and ordered the company to provide a more detailed list.

All these patent lawsuits have led to...

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Aug 20 1:18p

Judge: Google 'failed to comply' with order to disclose paid journalists and bloggers

Earlier this month Judge William Alsup ordered Oracle and Google to disclose any journalists or bloggers either has paid that could have commented on the Oracle v. Google case. Both parties responded last week — but Judge Alsup didn't think Google was completely forthright, and has asked the company to try again by the end of the week.

In a order filed today, Alsup flatly states that "Google has failed to comply" with his original request. Google had said in its initial response that the...

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Jul 07 4:03a

Google demands Oracle reimburse over $4 million in costs for Android infringement trial

Last month Oracle declined to receive any statutory damages after the disappointing results in its infringement lawsuit against Google, but the search giant let it be known it wanted Oracle to cover its legal costs. This week Google counsel Robert Van Nest made good on the promise, filing an official request that Oracle reimburse the company for over $4 million in costs that it incurred over the course of the trial. The number covers transcripts, expert witness compensation, and more than...

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Jun 20 10:57p

Oracle declines copyright infringement damages from Google in anticipation of appeal

Today Oracle's legal team decided to forego any statutory damages in connection with its infringement case against Google. Last month Judge William Alsup ruled that the structure, sequence, and organization or the 37 Java APIs in the case — the cornerstone of Oracle's hopes for a big payday — weren't copyrightable. It left Oracle with two minor infringement counts in hand, related to Google's copying of Java code for Android, with a total possible payout of just $300,000. Computerworld...

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May 31 5:08p

Judge: Oracle Java API elements not copyrightable, related claims against Google dismissed

Things weren't looking good for Oracle after the jury found that Google hadn't infringed upon the company's patents in the second phase of the trial between the two behemoths, but the issue of infringement of the structure, sequence, and organization of 37 Java APIs was still up in the air. Judge William Alsup ended the discussion today, ruling that the SSO of the APIs is not covered under current copyright law — and dismissing Oracle's related infringement claims outright. The judge had...

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May 23 1:57p

Jury: Google did not infringe Oracle patents with Android

Over a week after it began deliberations, the jury has returned a verdict in the patent infringement case between Oracle and Google, finding that the search giant did not infringe upon Oracle's patents with Android. In play were infringement counts on eight different claims across two separate patents: RE38,104 and 6,061,520. Given the decision, there will be no need for a damages phase in connection with the patent claims, and with the recent agreement by Google and Oracle to postpone any...

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May 22 4:19p

Oracle vs. Google jury struggles with patent claims as deliberations enter second week

It took the Oracle vs. Google jury a week to reach its partial verdict on the copyright claims in the case, and the patent phase isn't moving any faster as the jury began its second week of deliberations today, with no sign of a verdict in sight. The last few days have seen the jurors submit a number of questions to the court — they had five yesterday alone — addressing the technical nuances of the alleged infringement of the '104 and '520 patent claims. Not only has the jury requested that...

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May 16 1:22p

Oracle and Google take copyright damages out of the jury's hands

Yesterday Oracle counsel David Boies made a spur-of-the-moment suggestion that would prevent the jury from handling damages for Google's copyright infringement in Android, and keep Oracle's hopes for a substantive payout alive in the process. This morning both parties — and Judge William Alsup — agreed to the proposition. Under the agreement, any and all damages related to the two copyright infringement counts the search giant faces — at the moment, just for nine lines of rangeCheck code and e...

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May 15 6:51p

Oracle makes 11th-hour proposal to keep big payday hopes alive

If there's one thing the Oracle vs. Google trial hasn't been short of, it's plot twists and turns. The trend continued today courtesy of Oracle counsel David Boies, who made a principled plea to Judge Alsup over what he felt Oracle was entitled to seek for Android's copyright infringement of Java — before proposing an alternate solution that could have the third phase of the trial postponed for weeks, if it happens at all.

The situation stems from the jury's partial verdict in connection with...

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Oracle: Google had its head in the sand with alleged patent infringement

Oracle and Google's attorneys wrapped up their closing arguments today, sending the jury on to determine whether Google had infringed two Oracle patents — but not before one of the jurors was removed from the trial altogether. The day started off at 7:30AM per the court's normal schedule, but things ground to a halt when word came that one of the 12 jurors had not yet arrived due to car problems. When it became clear the transportation issues were not going to be resolved, three options faced...

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May 11 4:34p

Google hit with second count of infringement as both sides struggle to shorten Oracle trial

It was the clearest indication yet of just exactly where this trial is headed. During the day's second recess, Google counsel Robert Van Nest huddled with Oracle attorneys David Boies and Michael Jacobs, all three talking in the middle of the courtroom. Brief snippets of conversation echoed; "that one's done," "he already said he was going to grant a JMOL," "look, how much is this going to cost?" After a day of dense testimony, heavy with phrases like current pool indices and byte offsets,...

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May 10 2:52p

Google pushes to drop damages phase of Java infringement trial

Google will be filing a motion for the damages phase of its infringement battle with Oracle to be dropped altogether as Judge William Alsup pushes both sides to "streamline" the rest of the process. In a hearing this morning, the judge addressed the rangeCheck infringement — the only count Google currently faces — saying that it wouldn't be a good use of the jury's time to have them deliberate on the amount of statutory damages when the maximum figure Oracle can be awarded is just $150,000.


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May 09 9:47p

Andy Rubin finishes patent testimony as former Sun VP challenges Jonathan Schwartz claims

While it may not have had the immediate implications of Judge Alsup rejecting Oracle's request for a fair use ruling, the patent portion of Oracle vs. Google wound on today. Andy Rubin made two appearances in the courtroom, once on the stand and another time via video playback — but the two Rubins didn't entirely agree with one another. As he did yesterday, Oracle counsel Michael Jacobs focused on a number of emails that contained references to Sun-owned patents. Rubin testified that despite...

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Oracle's request for fair use ruling denied, Google down to one count of infringement

Following the jury's inability to decide on the issue of fair use in the Oracle vs. Google trial, Oracle asked the judge to rule on the issue as a matter of law (JMOL). Both sides engaged in oral arguments, but Judge William Alsup surprised the courtroom with an early decision, denying Oracle's request, saying that "it wouldn't be fair" given the evidence introduced in the trial.

While the jury found that Google had infringed upon Oracle's copyrights by using the sequence, structure, and...

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May 08 10:50p

Oracle vs. Google hits the patent phase: the opening statements

The first phase of the Oracle vs. Google trial came to an end yesterday, as unsatisfying and unresolved as it may have been. We've quickly moved on to phase two, which trades copyrights and APIs for patents and virtual machines. At issue are two Oracle patents: RE38,104 and 6,061,520 (we'll refer to them as ‘104 and ‘520 for convenience). Oracle is alleging that the Dalvik virtual machine — the very heart of Android itself — infringes on both. Let's take a look at what both parties will be...

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May 07 2:13p

Jury finds Google infringed Oracle copyrights in partial verdict; Google moves for mistrial

The jury in the Oracle vs. Google trial found Google liable of infringing Oracle's Java-related copyrights today, although it remained deadlocked on the critical issue of whether Google made fair use of the Java APIs. The fair use question has been unresolved since Friday, when the jury told Judge William Alsup that it couldn't reach a unanimous decision on the matter. The judge had instructed the jurors at that point to think things through over the weekend in the hopes that they could avoid...

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Oracle vs. Google deliberations temporarily halted after juror is accused of discussing case over weekend

We'd been hoping to hear a verdict from the jury in the Oracle vs. Google trial today, but something unexpected happened instead: one of the jurors was accused of discussing the case over the weekend with her husband. Deliberations were immediately stopped after the issue came to light, and the juror that had raised concerns was brought into the courtroom. He reported that a fellow juror had stated she had knowledge of patent law through her husband; the juror that flagged the issue thought...

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May 04 3:40p

Oracle vs. Google jury reaches partial verdict; judge calls for additional deliberation

Yesterday one of the jurors in the Oracle vs. Google trial signaled that the jury was having difficulty making a decision — to the point that they were concerned a consensus wouldn't be reached at all. Today the jury notified Judge William Alsup via a note that it had reached a unanimous decision on all but one question, but was otherwise at "an impasse." However, upon entering the courtroom, the foreperson stated to Judge Alsup that not all members of the jury thought sending the note today...

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May 03 6:55p

Oracle vs. Google jury possibly deadlocked?

Things just took an interesting turn in the courtroom for Oracle's copyright infringement case against Google: a juror has asked how the jury should proceed if a unanimous conclusion can't be reached and one individual won't change their stance. Judge Alsup was quick to point out that the note wasn't from the foreperson, and wasn't an official statement that the jury was tied up. In speaking with counsel from both Oracle and Google, Alsup floated the possibility that if the jury does indeed...

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Apr 30 3:33p

Oracle and Google make their closing arguments in Android infringement trial

The copyright phase of the Oracle vs. Google infringement trial has been winding on for two weeks, but we moved one step closer to resolution today with the attorneys for both sides presenting their closing arguments. Oracle attorney Michael Jacobs made his client's case, referring to the trial as being "mostly about Google's excuses." As evidence of Google's wrongdoing, Jacobs pointed to email exchanges that have surfaced throughout the trial, in which the likes of Eric Schmidt, Andy Rubin,...

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Apr 27 5:25p

Oracle and Google rest in copyright trial; Oracle CFO says 'it's hard to compete with free'

It's been an eventful week in the Oracle vs. Google trial; we've seen Eric Schmidt, three days of Andy Rubin, and revelations about the early days of Android thanks to some formerly-confidential Google documents. Today both parties rest their respective cases in the copyright phase of the battle, setting the stage for the patent and damages sections yet to come.

For much of the day it was a case of dueling doctors, with both Oracle and Google calling technical experts to the stand. The latter...

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Apr 26 4:13p

Former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz testifies for Google in Oracle trial

The copyright phase of the Oracle and Google trial has been going on for almost two weeks now, but today saw Google calling one of its last witnesses in its defense: former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. Despite him having led the company whose copyright claims lay at the heart of the case, Schwartz's name has been increasingly invoked over the last few days, with several Google employees stating that they took his public praise as approval of Android's use of Java's APIs and class libraries.


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Google tries to win on a technicality, claims Oracle's Java copyrights were filed wrong

A new development has turned some heads in the Oracle vs. Google courtroom. Google's attorneys just asked to introduce two documents into evidence from the US Copyright Office that show there's no record of what code Oracle submitted in connection with the registration of Java 2 SE 1.4 and 5.0. If Google can convince the court the copyright registrations are somehow invalid or improper, Oracle's copyright case will change somewhat dramatically: the company can still prove Google infringed its...

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Apr 25 4:15p

Android in early 2007 looked very different than it does today

When Google was in the thick of Android's development in 2006 and 2007 — long before the platform ever reached retail — it was a very different product, almost unrecognizable compared to the products we used today. Documents dated May of 2007 and made public during the course of Oracle's lawsuit against Google over its use of Java in Android show off a number of those preliminary user interface elements, prominently marked "subject to change," and you can see how this used to be a product...

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Andy Rubin at the Oracle trial: I didn't expect Android to contribute greatly to Google's ad revenues

Google's Andy Rubin wrapped up his testimony in the Google vs. Oracle case this morning, but not before making some somewhat surprising statements about his expectations for the mobile operating system. When asked by Oracle attorney David Boies about what purpose Android serves for the search giant, he echoed CEO Larry Page, stating that the operating system "makes it easier to access Google services." Pressed as to whether he expected Android to contribute greatly to the company's ad...

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Google in 2007: 'a touchscreen cannot completely replace physical buttons'

How times change. From Google's Android specification documents in May of 2007 (several months after the iPhone's announcement):

3.11.2 Touchscreen

Touchscreens will be supported. However, the Product was designed with the presence of discrete physical buttons as an assumption, therefore a touchscreen cannot completely replace physical buttons.

By the time the T-Mobile G1 was released in late 2008, touchscreen support had moved from an afterthought to a central element of Android — and...

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Google wanted to subsidize a $9.99 unlimited data plan for Android phones

In documents revealed during the Oracle v. Google trial today, Google mentioned to T-Mobile back in 2006 that it wanted to turn the carrier plan pricing structure on its head by underwriting part of the cost of an unlimited data package. By Google's math, customers would pay $9.99 a month for unlimited data — to subsidize the reduce cost, the company would forgo the commission it earned from T-Mobile for referring Android buyers to its online store. Google figured that its own services —...

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This was the original 'Google Phone' presented in 2006

Two years before the T-Mobile G1 introduced the world to Android, Google presented carriers with the "Google Phone — a device that looked a lot more like the portrait QWERTY Android prototype shown in early 2008.

At the time, Google bemoaned that "basic phone user interfaces and the ability to integrate as a 3rd party are still a barrier," telling T-Mobile that Mountain View's expertise combined with the carrier's unlimited data plan would be a win-win. (Of course, six years later, unlimited...

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Apr 24 11:58a

Eric Schmidt's testimony from the Oracle v. Google trial

It's a day packed full of legal fun with Google's Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt following immediately on the heals of Andy Rubin's testimony in the Oracle v. Google trial. We're not sure exactly what the focus of Schmidt's testimony will be, but we imagine Oracle will continue its tactic of looking deeper into the intent of those at Google who ultimately gave the green light to use Java and its APIs in the Android operating system.

Once again, Bryan Bishop is live in the courtroom to give...

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Andy Rubin's testimony from the Oracle v. Google trial (round two!)

The copyright infringement phase of the Oracle v. Google trial has been underway for a week now, but today we get a chance to hear testimony directly from Google's Android chief, Andy Rubin. Rubin is likely the one person who can paint the complete picture for us — from initial development through to the most recent version updates to the operating system. For example, evidence introduced at trial so far indicates Rubin was intimately involved in the original negotiations with Sun...

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Apr 23 7:31p

Oracle technical expert struggles in Android trial, Andy Rubin begins testimony

The second week of Oracle vs. Google kicked off this morning, with Andy Rubin making a brief appearance at the end of the day — but not before one of Google's attorneys grilled an Oracle technical expert, raising questions as to how thorough his investigation into the similarities between Java and Android had really been. Code-level comparisons between the two operating systems was the focus in general, starting with Square CTO Bob Lee. Having served as the core library development lead for...

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Inside the Oracle vs. Google courtroom: questions, code, and a file cabinet

The infringement trial between Oracle and Google kicked off last week at the Phillip Burton Federal Building in San Francisco, and it's already featured appearances from Oracle CEO Larry Ellison, Google co-founder Larry Page, and an array of other witnesses. We've covered the strategy of both companies, but what about the experience of sitting inside the courtroom itself?

The judge vowed to have loud typists removed

Let's start with the most important part: as beautiful as the courtroom may...

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Apr 19 8:38p

Google's chief Java architect: it's 'likely' I copied Sun code found in Android, 'I'm sorry' if I did

Tim Lindholm wasn't the only witness to have something interesting to say on the stand today in Google and Oracle's ongoing trial. Google's "Java guru" Joshua Bloch also spoke, getting into the nitty gritty of Java code and APIs, and admitting via previously-taped deposition testimony that it was likely that some of the code he contributed to Android was indeed copied. Bloch worked at Sun for eight years before moving to Google in 2004; his LinkedIn page refers to him as the company's Chief...

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Google engineer Lindholm: 'I had little involvement in Android'

As anticipated, today's schedule in the copyright phase of the Oracle v. Google infringement case included testimony from Tim Lindholm. Lindholm joined Google as a software engineer in 2005 and has gained some notoriety as the author of the 2010 email allegedly attempting to convince Android chief Andy Rubin that officially licensing Java was the best solution for Android:

"What we've actually been asked to do (by Larry and Sergei) is to investigate what technical alternatives exist to Java...

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Apr 18 2:38p

Larry Page: Android isn't critical, it's a delivery vehicle for Google services

Oracle completed its cross-examination of Google CEO Larry Page today in the copyright phase of the trial between the two Silicon Valley giants, and Page was quite candid about Android's importance to Google as a whole. When asked if he believed Android was a critical asset to Google around 2010, Page said: "I believe Android was very important for Google. I wouldn't say it was critical."

"I believe Android was very important for Google. I wouldn't say it was critical."

When asked whether...

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Google's legal slides paint Oracle as a gold digger, Java as free and open software

Oracle's attorneys have made clear what the company is accusing Google of in its lawsuit over Android, but how is Mountain View planning to defend itself? We took a look through the slideshow presentation that accompanied Google's opening statement, and it paints quite a different picture than the one put forward by Larry Ellison's legal team. Google portrays Java as a language that is openly acknowledged to be free, upon which Google built Android using legitimate means. However, once...

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Apr 17 6:36p

Larry Page on the stand in Oracle trial: 'We didn't do anything wrong'

Oracle and Google's legal fight has finally made its way to the courtroom, with Oracle CEO Larry Ellison taking the stand earlier this morning. The other big name to appear was Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page, who was faced with a line of questioning vital to the case's shift from patent disputes to copyright infringement: namely, how did particular lines of Sun (now Oracle) code make their way into Android? Confronted with a slide from an Android strategy presentation in 2005, which...

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Oracle considered buying RIM or Palm to get into the smartphone game

The long-awaited Oracle / Google trial is finally underway, and the Wall Street Journal just reported on some pieces of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's testimony, including the fact that his company considered purchasing RIM or Palm as a means to get into the mobile phone marketplace. Ultimately, RIM was deemed too expensive at the time, and we all know that Palm was snapped up by HP. Additionally, Reuters is reporting that Oracle also considered partnering with an Android manufacturer like...

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Oracle vs. Google Android trial begins with Oracle on the attack

As scheduled, Oracle's opening statement began yesterday in its patent and copyright infringement case against Google in a northern California federal court — with Oracle providing the public with a link to the presentation slides it used to map out its arguments for the jury. No surprise, Oracle's case immediately starts off by accusing Google of desperation, deceit and willful disregard for Oracle's intellectual property rights. The infamous 2010 email from Google engineer Tim Lindholm to...

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Apr 13 3:27a

Oracle thinks you can copyright a programming language, Google disagrees

Oracle's case against Google has evolved primarily into a copyright infringement suit over the past several months, and with the full trial scheduled to begin this coming Monday, the court is making an effort to get down to the nuts and bolts of copyright law. The judge issued an order last week requiring that both Google and Oracle provide their respective positions on a fundamental issue in the case:

"Each side shall take a firm yes or no position on whether computer programming languages...

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Apr 03 4:02a

Google and Oracle settlement talks collapse, patent dispute going to trial

Oracle's longrunning dispute with Google over Java patents allegedly misused in Android won't be settled without going to trial. US Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal has issued a court order stating that the two parties have failed to reach a mutually acceptable solution to their disagreement and will therefore cease pre-trial settlement negotiations.

"The parties have reached an irreconcilable impasse in their settlement discussions."

That trial will commence on April 16th and may take up to...

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Mar 28 3:33p

Google offers Oracle percentage of Android revenue as patent damages

Google added an interesting twist yesterday to its defensive strategy against Oracle's claims of patent infringement with a proposal to pay a percentage of Android revenue to Oracle, if Oracle is successful in proving infringement. On its face, that may seem like a big gamble for Google, but it's really not. There are only two patents remaining in the case — US RE38,104 and US 6,061,520 — and Google is only offering to pay a total of $2.8 million for any past infringement of those patents....

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Mar 14 12:11p

Trial for Oracle patent and copyright suit against Google to start on April 16th

After several delays, a trial for Oracle's intellectual property suit against Google has been set to start on April 16th. California judge William Alsup issued an order yesterday setting the trial date and stating that he expected the case to last about eight weeks. This suit will determine whether the Java-based code on Google's Android platform violates patents and copyrights owned by Oracle, particularly a method for conserving memory and a way to handle references when compiling code. If...

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Jan 04 4:20p

Oracle's copyright / patent infringement trial against Google set to begin in March

The litigation battle between Oracle and Google has been rife with drama and setbacks over the last year but it looks like there might finally be a light at the end of the tunnel. The federal judge handling the case in northern California issued a scheduling order today, setting the final jury trial to begin "on or after" March 19, 2012. Considering the complexity of the issues and the potential ramifications this case could have on Google and Android, it actually moved along at a rather...

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Sep 08 2:31a

Court documents reveal failed Google deal with Sun to open source Java, share Android revenue

Court documents from the Oracle vs. Google lawsuit reveal that in 2005 or 2006, Google was in ambitious discussions with Sun Microsystems to open source Java and partner on Android development. The deal didn't go through, but if it had, the current legal battles around mobile would like have looked very different today. A 2005 email from Andy Rubin to Sergey Brin reveals that Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz was enthusiastic about the possibilities:

Alan Brenner (Sun VP) briefed [Schwartz] today...

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Aug 15 10:08a

Google and Motorola: what are all those patents for?

Google tried to present its $12.5b acquisition of Motorola as an opportunity to "supercharge the Android ecosystem," but it's clear that the deal was equally prompted out of desire to protect Android from further patent lawsuits using Motorola's strong patent portfolio. From all appearances, it actually seems like Google was first interested in somehow licensing or buying Motorola's patents, and then decided it would be nice to spend a little more and just buy the whole damn company. Of...

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