Oracle's patent infringement and copyright lawsuit against Google has finally gone off to trial at the US District Court in San Francisco, but there are certainly plenty of questions looming as to where this will end up.
The fact that these two Silicon Valley giants will finally have a trial underway is fairly incredible (and slightly unbelievable), given how much back and forth there has been over the last two years since Oracle initially filed the suit in August 2010.
Since then, there have been numerous delays with potential start dates assigned for October 2011, January 2012 and March 2012. It was only just last month that 16 April was given the green light. That date was solidified once the last-ditch effort for another round of settlement talks fell through.
One of the biggest hurdles for getting this trial underway is that these two companies can't even seem to agree upon on what they're fighting over.
Yes, it's clear that Oracle is suing Google over patent violations involving Android and Java — patents that used to be owned by Sun Microsystems, but now belong to Oracle. Google reasserts time and again that Sun was a big supporter of Android, and that the programming language was free to use.
To clarify matters before going into trial, Judge William H Alsup issued an order on 6 April (PDF) asking each side to "take a firm yes or no position on whether computer programming languages are copyrightable".
But Oracle has also repeatedly failed to pinpoint and narrow down the patents that are being violated. Furthermore, it hasn't helped that settlement talks have continuously stalled proceedings. Even dragging in Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Google CEO Larry Page didn't do any good.
The big debate going into the trial is what is at stake here for Oracle and Google. Even more to the point: how much money is Oracle going to win, and will it get a cut of Android revenue going forward?
It's all but said and done that Oracle is going to have some kind of a pay day. During a court hearing last July, Judge Alsup admitted that Google is definitely going to pay up, "probably in the millions, maybe in the billions" at some point.
Last September, Oracle wanted at least US$1.16 billion in damages from Google, which is considerably less than the US$6.1 billion it was asking for in July. Yet, some followers of the case have said that Oracle would be lucky to extract even US$100 million in this intellectual property suit.
Likely accepting that some sort of defeat is inevitable, Google did put one offer on the table a few weeks ago. Google offered to pay Oracle up to US$2.8 million in damages over two of the patents in question. Furthermore, Google also offered a deal of 0.5 per cent from Android revenue for one patent through December 2012 and 0.015 per cent on a second patent through April 2018.
However, that bargain would only be offered as a stipulation for damages if (and only if) Oracle prevails on patent infringement. Oracle rebuffed the deal.
Whatever Oracle ends up with (or not), we should know relatively soon, as the trial is only expected to last eight weeks — an incredibly short time when you put all of these other proceedings into perspective.
Yesterday in court, jury selection began, and a first look at the witness list was also published.
Here's a look at Oracle's current list of its anticipated first 10 trial witnesses being prepped to take the stand over the course of the next eight weeks:
- Joshua Bloch
- Leo Cizek
- Larry Ellison
- Vineet Gupta (by video)
- Thomas Kurian
- Bob Lee
- Larry Page (live and by video)
- Mark Reinhold
- Edward Screven
- Brian Swetland
Interestingly, this list is evenly divided between current Oracle and Google employees, and it includes at least one former Sun employee from both sides of the case.
Remember, Sun Microsystems — the force behind Java, and the original owner of any related patents — was acquired by Oracle in 2010.
Via ZDNet US