It’s all over the net today. As I repeatedly predicted, the patent claims in the Oracle-vs.-Java lawsuit over Android have completely fizzled. Oracle’s only shred of hope at this point is that Judge Alsup will rule that APIs can be copyrighted, and given the extent of cluefulness Alsup has displayed (he mentioned in court having done some programming himself) this seems rather unlikely.
Copyright damages, if any, will almost certainly be limited to statutory levels. There is no longer a plausible scenario in which Oracle gets a slice of Android’s profits or an injunction against Android devices shipping.
This makes Oracle’s lawsuit a spectacular failure. The $300,000 they might get for statutory damages is nothing compared to the huge amounts of money they’ve sunk into this trial, and they’re not even likely to get that. In effect, Oracle has burned up millions of dollars in lawyers’ fees to look like a laughingstock.
Surely it has to be dawning on CEOs who think they can monetize junk software patents that their hit ratio has been pretty dreadful. The SCO-vs.-IBM lawsuit in 2003 set the pattern; victories have been few and small, losses frequent and much larger. Nobody is winning this game except the lawyers.
It’s not just the legal fees that will hurt Oracle’s bottom line; Oracle’s reputation for competence and good strategy took a hit today. Side-by-side with SCO in the gallery of big-time losers is not anywhere a technology company wants to be.
Could this be the beginning of the end for the software-patent wars? The outright trolls won’t cease trolling, because patents are the only assets they have. But we may be nearing the end of the era when major technology companies find patent litigation to be cost-effective. Speed the day.