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Google Inc.'s (GOOG) general counsel lauded the courtroom victory won by the Internet giant Wednesday against Oracle Corp. (ORCL) as a warning for firms considering filing patent litigation in the future.
A federal jury had decided earlier in the day Google didn't infringe two of Oracle's patents that protect its Java technology, as Oracle had alleged.
The win for Google came as its high-profile San Francisco trial with Oracle over both patent and copyright claims related to Google's Android mobile phone software drags into its second month, and appears to be drawing to a close.
"I think you've seen a lot of patent cases filed lately, and most of them have not resulted in successful outcomes for plaintiffs," said Google General Counsel Kent Walker. "That may send a message to those who might want to do these things in the future."
Walker declined to say how much Google has spent to defend itself against Oracle's infringement allegations, but said such lawsuits can cost about $5 million per patent to defend.
Oracle originally asserted seven patents against Google, though that number had been whittled down to two by the time the trial began last month.
It wasn't immediately clear if Oracle will appeal the patent verdict.
An Oracle spokeswoman declined to comment.
The patent verdict capped a second phase of the ongoing trial. A first phase had been focused on Oracle's copyright infringement claims.
That first phase ended with a mixed verdict, as the jury found Google infringed on copyrights protecting Java interfaces, but couldn't decide if that was acceptable under the fair use doctrine--which allows for some limited use of copyrighted material.
The trial is expected to resume next week, though the jury has been dismissed.
Walker said he expects the judge overseeing the case to issue a ruling on the copyrightability of the Java interfaces some time in the next couple of weeks.
If the judge rules that some or all of the interfaces can be protected with copyrights, Oracle is expected to pursue damages that could be significant.
Walker said a ruling that the interfaces are protected "would be a real threat to software development," which often relies on making legal use of others' code.
Google's general counsel said excessive patent litigation partly results from flaws in the U.S. patent system, which can issue legal protections to broad or obvious ideas.
"The goal is to make sure we have high quality patents," Walker said, "so that a patent doesn't become a lottery ticket" in court.
Google's partners have faced a number of additional infringement suits related to Android, which is developed according to an open source model that makes use of outside engineering.
Earlier this week Google closed its acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings, which has a broad portfolio of thousands of patents.
-By John Letzing, Dow Jones Newswires; 415-765-8230; firstname.lastname@example.org