The judge hearing Oracle’s Java patent lawsuit against Google hopes to get the case wrapped up before the end of November, he said Wednesday, but it won’t help his cause that the U.S. patent office has agreed to reexamine Oracle’s patents in the case.
Lawyers for Oracle and Google came before Judge William Alsup at the U.S. District Court in San Francisco on Wednesday for a so-called claims construction hearing, where the two sides argue over how language in the patents should be interpreted.
Scott Weingaertner, an attorney for Google, told the judge towards the end of the hearing that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has agreed to reexamine Oracle’s Java patents.
“The patent office has granted reexamine requests on all the patents in this case,” Weingaertner said.
Alsup asked when that happened. “It happened as recently as yesterday with one of them. It’s been happening over the last few weeks,” Weingaertner said
It’s not uncommon for defendants to ask for patents in a case to be reexamined. The patent office could potentially invalidate claims in the patents or narrow their scope, or it could choose to take no action at all. Seeking a reexamination is sometimes used simply as a delaying tactic.
Neither Oracle nor Google asked Alsup to delay the case Wednesday, and he seemed reluctant to let anything slow down the proceedings. The judge said he would like the case to be over before the end of November, because that’s when his law clerk is scheduled to finish her term with him.
Law clerks are usually assigned to a judge for a year and help manage their case loads, doing research and drafting opinions for the judge to sign. The Oracle-Google case is a complex one and it would be “a real burden” to have to bring another law clerk up to speed, Alsup said.
“You have the luxury of resources that I don’t have,” he told the lawyers.
A jury trial is currently scheduled for Oct. 31, so the judge will need to keep the case on track if he wants it to finish that quickly. Oracle’s trial against SAP this year took three weeks to complete, and the issues in that case were less complex.
A spokeswoman for Oracle declined to comment on Wednesday’s hearing and Google didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Oracle sued Google last August, alleging that its Android operating system infringes on several Java patents. Google denies doing anything illegal.
Lawyers for the two sides argued for 90 minutes before the judge Wednesday about how wording in the patents should be interpreted. How the judge rules could affect whether Google is found guilty of infringement.
At one point he lost patience with the back and forth.
“I don’t know, it’s frustrating that these gigantic law firms can’t write clearer language so we don’t have to go through this process,” the judge said.