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Google, Oracle settlement talks fail, trial to begin April 16

Java, Android patent tussle to have its day in court

After nearly 20 months of private settlement talks, public posturing, and legal jousting, Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc. will finally go to trial over Oracle's assertion that Page & Co.'s Android infringes upon Ellison & Co.'s Java patents and copyrights.

"Despite their diligent efforts and those of their able counsel, the parties have reached an irreconcilable impasse in their settlement discussions with the undersigned," wrote said undersigned, US Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal, in an order issued on Monday.

"No further conferences shall be convened. The parties should instead direct their entire attention to the preparation of their trial presentations," Grewal wrote. "Good luck."

Noting that federal district courts usually resolve "the overwhelming majority" of such cases through settlements, default judgements, or summary judgements, such avoidance of a protracted and costly court trial will not be the case in the Java spat.

"We are not referred to in passing as judgment courts, or settlement courts," Grewal wrote. "We are referred to as trial courts because, in the end, some cases just need to be tried."

And Case No.: 10-CV-03561-WHA is now officially one of those.

Since Oracle first filed its complaint against Google on August 12, 2010, a full 850 motions, orders, declarations, statements, and the like have been filed in the case. Court documents list 20 lawyers representing Oracle, and 26 lawyers on Google's team.

The original complaint was straightforward – well, as straightforward as such clashes of the titans can be. "Google's Android infringes Oracle America's copyrights in Java and Google is not licensed to do so," it reads, and then continues on for 161 pages detailing the alleged infringement of seven Java-related patents, plus copyrighted code, documentation, specifications, libraries, and other materials.

Google's first public reponse to the suit was to label it "baseless" and an attack on "the open-source Java community." One member of that community, the Free Software Foundation agreed, urging Google to take a "principled stand against all software patents" and fight Oracle in open court.

The FSF, it appears, will now get its wish.

On March 23, Grewal ordered Oracle and Google to get together for a final settlement meeting. Court documents show that a six-hour meeting was held this Saturday between the two parties, and the description of that meeting by the court reporter is terse. "Further settlement conference held. Case did not settle. No further discussion shall be convened."

Despite a motion by Google to suspend its start by one week, the trial remains scheduled to begin on April 16 before the Honorable William Alsup at the US District Court, California Northern District in San Francisco.

As Judge Grewal said, "some cases just need to be tried."

Good luck, indeed. ®

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