Jury strikes a blow against software patents

Summary:Ding, dong, the patent witch is dead! Well, maybe not dead, but at least melting a bit.

Earlier today, a California jury cleared Google of all claims of patent infringement brought by Oracle. The trial, which had been in its 23rd day, concluded with a unanimous decision that Android did not infringe on six claims in U.S. Patent RE38,104 as well as two claims in U.S. Patent number 6,061,520. In the space of two weeks, Oracle's visions (some would say hallucinations) of up to $6 billion in damages have gone up in smoke.

Read: More Oracle v. Google news

Linux creator Linus Torvalds called the suit "idiotic" but predicted Oracle would "come out posturing and talk about how they’ll be vindicated, and pay lawyers to take it to the next level of idiocy.” The good news, though, is that this ruling has removed one of the darkest clouds hanging over Google and Android. Oracle can appeal, but their prospects don't look good.

After the trial, Joe Mullin at Ars Technica did an interesting interview with the jury foreman (Greg Thompson) that indicates Oracle "wasn't even close" to proving their case against Google in the patent phase of the trial, or even in the earlier copyright phase:

After the copyright verdict, there had been some speculation around the Web that because the jury found that Google infringed copyright—but split on fair use—it was basically a pro-Oracle jury with one or two holdouts sticking up for Google. Talking to Thompson, it quickly became clear that wasn't the case at all. A majority of jurors favored Google's argument from the start, and the holdouts—primarily Thompson himself—were a beleaguered few favoring Oracle. At one point during the copyright phase, in fact, Thompson said he was the lone holdout. At the end, he swung a couple more jurors to his side, but they were still a distinct minority.

There is still an unsettled copyright question, but even in the unfortunate event that the judge ruled against Google on that part, we're only talking about 9 lines of code out of millions. Lines which were immediately removed from the Android source when somebody pointed them out.

I find it refreshing that in this trial, both the Judge and jury proved to be much smarter than the lawyers. Thompson and others on the jury asked pretty good questions, especially considering most had no technical background at all. The judge (the Hon. William Alsup) revealed he was something of a developer himself and scoffed at some of Oracle's arguments about the mysterious invention known as the "range check". If you ask me, all software patent trials should be held in California from now on instead of East Texas.

Topics: Apps, Software, Software Development

About

Ed Burnette has been hooked on computers ever since he laid eyes on a TRS-80 in the local Radio Shack. Since graduating from NC State University he has programmed everything from serial device drivers and debuggers to web servers. After a delightful break working on commercial video games, Ed reluctantly returned to business software. He... Full Bio

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