Why Oracle may win its billions from Google

Summary:The ongoing volley of court filings between Oracle and Google continues, and it's clear that the software giant wants billions of dollars in Android damages. When you examine some of the moving parts, Oracle looks like it may just get what it wants.

commentary The ongoing volley of court filings between Oracle and Google continues, and it's clear that the software giant wants billions of dollars in Android damages. When you examine some of the moving parts, Oracle looks like it may just get what it wants.

Earlier this week in a court document, Google ripped Oracle's expert witness, and maintained that the company shouldn't get a piece of Android-related ad revenue. Oracle fired back with another filing saying that Google is redacting too much in a move to misrepresent the situation. The key element in Oracle's latest filing is that Google was trying to hide "references to the fact that Oracle damages claims in this case are in the billions of dollars".

Whatever the merits of Oracle's lawsuit against Google, it's hard to not notice that the plaintiff has some key advantages. Given that Google has an ongoing revenue stream, there's a lot at stake in this upcoming trial to determine whether Android violates Java patents. In the end, Oracle's US$1.3 billion in damages against SAP may look like chump change.

Among Oracle's key advantages:

Patents: JMP Securities analyst Patrick Walravens noted that Oracle "carries a big stick in patent litigation". Why? Oracle has a ton of patents — many acquired through the Sun acquisition. Walravens wrote:

We estimate that Oracle has over 20,000 patents. A review of the patent office's database suggests that Oracle is the assignee for over 12,000 patents in its own name, along with over 7000 for Sun Microsystems, and over 1000 for its various acquisitions (including PeopleSoft, Siebel and Agile, among others). In comparison, Google is the assignee for only 689 patents.

This Google disadvantage is why the company is trying to buy Nortel's patent portfolio.

The legal team: Oracle is using David Boies of Boies, Schiller and Flexner LLP. That's the legal team that won Oracle US$1.3 billion from SAP. Oracle's second law firm in the Oracle vs. Google case is Morrison and Foerster, which has Michael Jacobs as lead attorney. Jacobs helped Apple to defeat a patent infringement lawsuit in summary judgment.

Oracle isn't intimidated. One long-time tech watcher said yesterday that "Oracle thinks it can sue all of its competition into oblivion". Given the SAP win, it's only logical that Oracle would continue to run a winning play.

The return on investment motive: When Oracle bought Sun Microsystems, Java was one of the crown jewels — even though the software was never really monetised. At the time, Oracle's acquisition of Sun's Java looked like it was more a matter of controlling its own software destiny. Oracle's middleware is largely Java-based. But let's say that Oracle gets a nice round number in damages out of Google, like US$2 billion, and then ongoing payments for Android devices. Oracle paid US$5.6 billion net of cash and debt for Sun. Simply put, if this Android lawsuit bounces Oracle's way, the company could recoup half of its outlay for the Sun acquisition.

You'd think that Google and its nearly unlimited resources would win most lawsuits. The difference this time is that Google is facing an equally well-heeled foe with a bit of an attitude.

Via ZDNet US

Topics: Android, Google, Legal, Open Source, Oracle

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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