U.S. Patent Office Leaves Some Coal in Oracle’s Stocking
Just before Christmas last week, Oracle got a last-minute gift that it didn’t want in its patent fight with Google: A rejection by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office of several claims on a patent that’s the subject of the lawsuit.
Groklaw reported the notifications on Friday. See the full filing here. These patent reexaminations are a routine part of patent lawsuits. One party, usually the one that’s alleged to be infringing, asks the patent office to reexamine the patent and decide whether or not the patent should have been issued in the first place. A rejection isn’t by any means a final nail in the coffin in Oracle’s infringement case against Google. But it doesn’t exactly help Oracle, either.
Oracle has six months to appeal the patent office’s finding, and it can also, as a final step, sue the patent office itself. But these things rarely go that far.
And these rejections are sometimes meaningless to the final outcome of a lawsuit. In 2005, as part of its epic patent litigation against NTP — the case that nearly barred the import of BlackBerry devices into the United States — Research In Motion won several rejections from the patent office, like this one, which I wrote about at the time, only to suffer later defeats in court that led it to pay a $612 million settlement.
Oracle has claimed that Google owes it more than $6 billion for parts of its Java software that were used in the Android mobile operating system; Oracle took over Java after it acquired Sun Microsystems last year. Google has argued that Oracle’s claims for damages are flawed. After face-to-face talks between Oracle CEO Larry Ellison and Google CEO Larry Page failed in September, the trial had been expected to begin in October. But it was delayed, and is now expected to get underway in 2012.