Oracle Told To Lower Android Patent Damage Claim

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Oracle must lower its starting point for Android damages to $100m, but could depose Google CEO Larry Page

Oracle received some bittersweet news on 21 July in its patent infringement case against Google over Android.

The bitter end is that Oracle was ordered to lower its damages claim against Google in the case, from as much as $6.1 billion (£3.7 billion) to a starting point of $100 million, according to Computerworld.

Patent violations

On the sweet end, the software maker learned it could depose Google chief executive Larry Page for up to two hours to help the court determine if the search engine willfully infringed on Oracle’s patents.

The bitter and the sweet are importantly related, as a finding by the court of willful infringement may result in a tripling of damages Google would have to pay Oracle. Given the numbers above, hundreds of millions is lot better than tens of billions.

Oracle sued Google last August, alleging that its Android operating system violates seven patents, related to Java, which the company acquired through its purchase of Sun Microsystems. While Google has denied any infringement, it recently signaled some merit to the matter when it indicated it would be willing to pay Oracle to settle.

US District Judge William Alsup on 21 July took both Oracle and Google to task at a hearing where he told both parties to be more reasonable in their requests for resolution of the Java patent case.

That chiding turned more serious on 21 July. Alsup told Oracle its expert, Boston University professor Iain Cockburn, overshot reasonable damages estimates in the case. He ordered Oracle to ratchet down the multi-billion-dollar estimates, warning that it had once more chance to provide a fair damage estimate at the risk of Oracle having it excluded.

However, he also agreed with Cockburn that advertising revenue Google earns from Android phones does contribute to Android’s value.

Page on the witness stand

Perhaps the biggest news is that Alsup agreed with Oracle that it should be allowed to question new Google chief executive Page on the willful infringement matter.

“Oracle may depose [Google co-founder and chief executive] Mr. Page for a maximum of two hours, excluding breaks, solely on topics relevant to the willfulness of Defendant’s alleged patent infringement, and the value of Android to Defendant,” Alsup wrote.

Page’s testimony, in which Oracle’s attorneys will bid to show he was aware the company was in dark territory by not acquiring a licence for Java technology from Sun before Android launched in 2007, is crucial. Alsup cautioned that “there is a substantial possibility that a permanent injunction will be granted” if it is found guilty of infringement.

An injunction could be tough for Google, as intellectual property expert Florian Mueller noted: “With an injunction, Oracle would have the leverage to negotiate with Google a licence deal that could result in a very high per-unit royalty.”

Alsup currently has pencilled in a 31 October trial date for the case.

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