Oracle's case against Google crumbling?

Oracle suffer another blow in Android case as another patent invalidated

It's been a bad week for Oracle in the court case without a clear light at the end of tunnel. First they withdrew one of their patents and issued a third and heavily marked-down damages report. Now according to Groklaw, the US Patent Office has invalidated a fifth patent of their original seven they asserted back in the summer of 2010, leaving them with just one standing as the two giants possibly head to court.

The patent in question, RE38104, was given a non-final rejection and Oracle have until April 16th to respond with an appeal, should they choose to. With four patents already left in limbo, Oracle's patent infringement case has been severely weakened, and it does leave you to wonder whether they should bother querying this decision and focus all their efforts into the copyright trial. Pursuing the solitary patent could be a high-risk strategy.

The joint update also revealed that the USPTO had issue a 'final' rejection of all of the asserted claims of the '702 and '205 patents, but again Oracle could appeal if they wish. Whilst these decisions from the USPTO are non-final, it does weaken their argument in the eyes of the jury according to some.

Groklaw says:

Oracle will be left with only the four claims of the '520 to assert at trial, and as we have pointed out before, the '520 claims are now facing limitation because of representations made by Oracle during the reexamination.

It appears then that all is riding on the '520 patent :'Method and apparatus for resolving data references in generated code'  in Oracle's action against Google for the use of Java patents within their Android platform. The 520 patent was in fact an invention claimed by Java creator, James Gosling. 

FOSS Patents blogger, Florian Mueller said he was surprised that the Gosling patent was invalidated

The Gosling patent was the last one of the seven on which the USPTO issued a first Office action. This took very long, and for a long time I was thinking that Oracle might be able to get a lot of mileage just out of the Gosling patent. It appeared pretty fundamental to me. But this patent appears to be bound for invalidation, given that Oracle has so far not been able to dissuade the USPTO from turning any non-final rejection into a "final" one.

Mueller also provides a succinct analysis of what Oracle have to do now...

Oracle now finds itself in a situation in which common sense clearly shows that Google didn't want to respect its intellectual property (as the Lindholm email demonstrates), but in order for Oracle to prevail in court, it must prove that Google infringes on valid intellectual property rights belonging to Oracle.

On the copyright side of things, Oracle must defeat Google's argument that its API-related source files aren't copyrightable, which is a fairly hazy and controversial area. Judge Alsup recently said that an April court date would happen for the copyright trial once a sufficient damages report was filed, even though Google still contested that this week. Perhaps we're finally on the home stretch here.

Chris Mayer

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