Oracle Goes Home Empty-Handed

When Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL  ) filed its lawsuit against Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) , the database expert was hoping for as much as $6 billion in damages. If the Android platform for smartphones and tablets was found to infringe on patents and copyrights Oracle acquired in the Sun Microsystems buyout, Big G would have to pay dearly.

The verdict is in, and Oracle is going home almost empty-handed.

The jury took six weeks to conclude that Google did nothing wrong to Oracle's patents. In the copyright challenge, the jury was hung 9-3 on one question, but even that victory may be hollow. Judge William Alsup still has to decide whether programming language specifications can be copyrighted at all, and a "nay" on that question would erase Oracle's last hope for damage payments.

The judge happens to be a programmer himself, making it hard to believe that he'd side with Oracle on that final question. If you can copyright programming specifications and then litigate when others use them, the whole idea of publishing the so-called API specs seems useless.

Interviews with jurors after the panel was dismissed reveal that Oracle never was close to winning. Google suggests that other patent-wrangling litigators might take this decisive win as a signal to refrain from filing lawsuits against Android: "Today's jury verdict that Android does not infringe Oracle's patents was a victory not just for Google but the entire Android ecosystem."

But of course, Oracle vows to fight on. I think Linux creator Linus Torvalds said it best: "Prediction: instead of Oracle coming out and admitting they were morons about their idiotic suit against Android, they'll come out posturing and talk about how they'll be vindicated, and pay lawyers to take it to the next level of idiocy."

Yeah, I'd expect an appeal to the next level once Judge Alsup bangs his final gavel. Oracle has spent too much time, money, and face on this campaign to give up so easily. This suit is only two years in the making so far -- recall how memory technologist Rambus (Nasdaq: RMBS  ) took eight years to even reach trial against chip builder Micron Technology (Nasdaq: MU  ) in another complicated tech case (and Rambus is now appealing that unfavorable verdict).

Rambus is fighting for its corporate life while Oracle certainly has the financial resources to drag this process out for a very long time. Whether it's wise to waste cash on hopeless trials rather than reinvesting the money or returning it to shareholders, well, that's a whole 'nother ball of wax. Oracle may have wanted an easy slice of the trillion-dollar smartphone market when it bought Sun, but it's not really working out that way. Luckily, our analysts at the Fool have found another potential winner in the space. Find out who it is by reading this special free report.

Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares in Google and Micron but holds no other position in any of the companies mentioned. Check out Anders' holdings and bio, or follow him on Twitter and Google+. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Oracle. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Google. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

We Fools may not all hold the same opinion, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.


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