Google Inc. and Oracle Corp. (ORCL) are scheduled to meet again tomorrow after a daylong session yesterday in an attempt to resolve a lawsuit alleging the search engine company’s Android technology infringed Oracle’s patents.
Larry Page, Google’s chief executive officer, and Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO, spent yesterday in closed talks before a federal magistrate judge in San Jose, California, after they were ordered to meet over a dispute that may pose the biggest threat to the Android mobile software, now running on more than 150 million devices.
Oracle claimed in court papers that Google could owe as much as $6 billion while Google suggested at a hearing that a reasonable royalty would be $100 million. Jim Prosser, a Google spokesman, declined to comment on the talks. Deborah Hellinger, an Oracle spokeswoman, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment after regular business hours yesterday.
“It could be that they are truly making progress and need time to go back and look at the numbers,” Chris Renk, a patent attorney at Banner & Witcoff who isn’t involved in the case, said in a phone interview. “They may also be trying to show the judge presiding over the case, hey, we made a good faith effort at settlement talks.”
Magistrate Judge Paul Grewal, who ordered the two executives to attend the settlement conference yesterday, said they should be prepared for further meetings beginning tomorrow, up until Sept. 30. A trial in the case is scheduled for Oct. 30.
Oracle, the largest maker of database software, sued last year, alleging Mountain View, California-based Google didn’t obtain a license to use its Java technology patents that it says are infringed by the Android mobile-device operating system. Besides seeking billions of dollars in damages, Redwood City, California-based Oracle wants the court to order destruction of all products that violate its copyrights.
The two companies have made previous efforts to settle, including private discussions, which lacked “follow-through,” Oracle’s attorneys said in a court filing.
Oracle’s suit may represent a bigger menace to Google’s software than challenges from Apple Inc. (AAPL), which has already won patent decisions against Android device makers. In settlement talks, Page aims to avoid having to pay Oracle licensing fees that analysts at Citigroup Inc. said could be as high as $15 per device. That sum might slow the adoption of the software, which Google gives away.
Ellison is under pressure to wring profit from the acquisition of Sun Microsystems Inc. and its Java software after a report in June showed falling hardware sales, raising concern that Oracle may not be making most of the $7.3 billion deal, which closed last year.
Oracle initially estimated that damages from allegedly unauthorized use of Java technology would amount to as much as $6.1 billion. Alsup threw out the tally, calling it “wishful thinking,” according to a July 22 order.
In the same order, Alsup also took Google to task for what he called “Soviet-style negotiation” in suggesting that a reasonable royalty would be at most $100 million.
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