The judge hearing Oracle's patent and copyright claims against Google hinted last week he was likely to stay the case, pending a re-hearing on the validity of the Oracle patents at issue. Oracle had originally asked $6.1 billion for claimed violations, but the judge has since asked it to use $100 million as a starting place.
The patent re-hearing could take 18 months.
Brian Proffitt of IT World notes this leaves Oracle with a hard choice. It can go ahead on the copyright claims only, and file the patent claims after the re-hearing on validity is done, or it can wait for that to be done before it gets its day in court.
The company had until 3 PM EST on March 9, to make a decision, and the choice is important for both companies. If Oracle decides to withdraw its patent claims "without prejudice," it will have to refile the case after those claims are dealt with. But that may be embarrassing, since in a January 17 motion it claimed to be suffering "irreparable harm" it calculates at $10 million/day from "fragmenting the Java platform" between Google's version of it in Android and the main Java line, which Oracle acquired with Sun Microsystems.
You may well ask, why is there a copyright case at all since Java is under the General Public License (GPL)? Oracle alleges that Google used a proprietary version of Sun's Java, not the GPL version, in creating its Android fork of Linux. Sun didn't object, but once Oracle bought Sun it objected most strongly, and continues to do so.
More good news for Google Android came this week in the form of the Open Invention Network (OIN) deciding to add both Android and OpenJDK, a Java developers' kit, to the list of products under its protection. OIN began, under IBM's leadership, as a way to protect open source Linux from attack from patent holders after the long case of SCO vs. IBM, which Big Blue seems to have won.
Oracle is a member of OIN. The group acquires patents and uses them defensively, allowing their royalty free use by members. OIN is trying to recruit other companies to its ranks, like Samsung (SSNLF.PK), Intel (INTC) and DELL, and having Android as a protected distribution will help in that effort.
All this is very good news for Google, and very bad news for Oracle.
Disclosure: I am long GOOG.