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Oracle asked to lower damages claim against Google

Oracle has been ordered to lower its multibillion-dollar claim for damages in its patent infringement lawsuit against Google and its Android OS, court papers show.

“Oracle’s expert ‘overreached’ in concluding that Google owed up to US$6.1 billion in damages for alleged infringement of Oracle’s Java patents,” U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup said. “The ‘starting point’ for Oracle’s damages claim should be $100 million, adjusted up and down for various factors,” he said.

“At the same time, Google was wrong to assert that its advertising revenue is not related to the value of Android and should therefore not be a part of Oracle’s damages,” the judge said. He also warned Google, “there is a substantial possibility that a permanent injunction will be granted” if it is found guilty of infringement.

These are the latest developments in a case that has been heating up as the two sides approach a potential Oct. 31 trial date. Google has asked the judge to delay the trial pending the outcome of a reexamination of Oracle’s patents. Alsup said he’s not yet willing to give up on the October start.

Oracle sued Google last August, saying its Android OS violates seven Java-related patents, as well as Java copyrights, that Oracle acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems. Google has denied any infringement and complained that Oracle’s damages estimate is far too high.

On Friday, the judge seemed to largely agree with Google. “Oracle’s damages expert served a report that overreached in multiple ways — each and every overreach compounding damages ever higher into the billions — evidently with the goal of seeing how much it could get away with, a ‘free bite,’ as it were,” the judge wrote.

“Please be forewarned: the next bite will be for keeps. If the next and final report fails to measure up in any substantial and unseverable way … then it may be excluded altogether without leave to try yet again,” the judge said.

Oracle declined to comment on the judge’s order. Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Alsup rejected Google’s argument that the royalty payments should be no more than $100 million simply because Google received and rejected an offer from Sun to license Java at that price in 2006. In rejecting the offer, Google may simply have been gambling that it could win in court rather than “pay a fair price,” the judge said.

But the $100 million figure should be the starting point for calculating a hypothetical license, Alsup wrote. It should then be adjusted upward and downward in line with factors he outlined in his order.

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