Judge rejects Oracle's proposed plan to speed up Android trial

Oracle had offered to drop its patent claims while keeping the option to bring them up later

A judge on Friday shot down Oracle's offer to put its Java patent-infringement claims against Google over the Android mobile OS on hold, in exchange for a speedier trial on its copyright claims.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010, claiming Android violated a number of Java copyrights and patents. Google has denied wrongdoing, saying Android uses a "clean-room" implementation of Java that doesn't infringe on Oracle's intellectual property.

Oracle proposed the alternative plan earlier this week, seemingly eager to get the long-simmering case to trial as soon as possible.

"The piecemeal approach suggested by Oracle as a trial alternative will not be adopted," Judge William Alsup said in the ruling filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. "The [court's schedule] simply does not permit that luxury. If Oracle wishes to voluntarily dismiss any damages claim, it will have to do so with prejudice; otherwise, a dismissal is nothing more than an invitation to piecemeal litigation."

One proposal within Oracle's alternative plan would have seen the company's patent claims dismissed without prejudice, meaning it could revive them at a later date. Under another proposed scenario, Alsup would "sever and stay" the patent claims for nine months.

The judge has previously ruled the trial would take place in up to three phases covering patent, copyright and damages issues, all heard by the same jury, and seems intent on preserving that plan.

Alsup has been assigned to a large-scale prosecution of alleged gang members, "which has resulted in four lengthy trials, including one underway now, without any relief from the remainder of his normal caseload," he wrote in Friday's ruling. "This has led to a backlog of trial-ready cases waiting their turn."

The judge recently said he won't set a trial date until Oracle submits an acceptable damages methodology. In his ruling Friday, Alsup granted Oracle's expert the go-ahead to make a third try.

If all goes well, the case could "could still possibly be tried starting mid-April," but if not, it will probably slip until the last four months of this year, Alsup wrote. "This order, however, gives no assurances as to when the case can be tried."

In a filing late Wednesday, Google offered a lukewarm response to Oracle's proposed alternative trial plan, referring to it only in passing. "With respect to Oracle's extensive discussion of potential alternative trial plans, those same issues were briefed by the parties and decided by the Court just last week, and the Court did not ask the parties for further comment on those issues," the filing stated.

Google has previously argued that the case should be stayed pending a number of ongoing patent reexaminations by U.S. patent authorities, saying that the outcome could streamline the issues in dispute.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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