The stage is finally set, the verdict is finally on in a federal court in San Francisco where both Google CEO Larry Page, and Oracle CEO Larry Ellison are expected to take the witness stand during the trial, as will former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, and Andy Rubin, the Google Senior Vice President who runs its Android and mobile operations.
Last week, Oracle and Google are not intended to end the dispute our Java Patents to end soon, as US Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal had issued a court order stating that the two parties have failed to reach a mutually acceptable solution to their disagreement. Google earlier proposed to pay Oracle a percentage of Android revenue if Oracle could prove patent infringement.
Oracle sued Google back in 2010 claiming that the search giant’s Android technology infringed Oracle’s Java patents. The judge issued an order last week requiring that both Google and Oracle provide their respective positions on a fundamental issue in the case. There are only two patents remaining in the case — US RE38,104 and US 6,061,520 — and Google proposed an ongoing royalty to Oracle of up to .015 percent of Android revenues for the ’520 patent, which expires in 2018, and up to .5 percent for the ’104 patent, which expires this December. Google is only offering to pay a total of $2.8 million for any past infringement of those patents.
As Google puts it in that brief, which is the first two of two legal filings (via AllThingsD):
“That is a classic attempt to improperly assert copyright over an idea rather than expression.” And earlier in the brief, it argues: “Without a computer programming language, the set of statements or instructions cannot be understood by the computer. As such, a computer language is inherently a utilitarian, nonprotectable means by which computers operate. …The protectable material is the computer program (the set of statements or instructions); the unprotectable material is the method or system (the language). So understood, original computer programs may be protected, but the medium for expression in which they are created is not.”
For its part Oracle outlined its position on the issue in a trial brief filed on April 5 (via AllThingsD):
“Allowing copyright protection for computer interfaces makes sense because original expressions in software are innovations of an incremental sort that Congress meant to encourage. Trade secrecy law cannot achieve this goal because interfaces can be reverse-engineered. Patent law, because of its novelty and non-obviousness requirements and examination process, protects those substantial innovations, claimed as broadly and generically as possible, and in return gives strong protection against even those who independently develop the same technology. Copyright law protects innovations at a much finer level of detail (where original expression can be found) than patents ever could, but only offers protection against the copyist.”
This debate makes for an interesting read for judges and lawyers, but we really have no idea at this point how it’s going to ultimately play out. However, the trial starts on Monday and apparently the judge is going to let the parties present their evidence and defenses to the jury for the entire copyright side of the case before ruling on this base issue.