As James Niccolai reported yesterday, the jury in the Oracle-Google trial has found than none of the eight remaining claims in the two remaining patents was infringed by Google in Android as Oracle had alleged. From great heights of disaster, the case has been reduced to potential statutory damages on infringement of nine lines of code that the judge himself implies are trivial and obvious.
Rather than the original $6 billion damages, it's doubtful Oracle can hope for more than $32 million according to Steven Vaughn-Nichols. For that, APIs need to be declared subject to copyright (we won't know the outcome of the API copyright ability part of the case until next week when Judge Alsup deliver his opinion).
This is great news for the whole Android ecosystem. Oracle no longer has any grounds to request an injunction disrupting the flow of value or products, nor grounds to force per-unit royalty payments for these patents. Moreover, since the patents brought to trial were the best-of-the-best available, it seems unlikely that Oracle will be able to bring patent suits of this kind against Android again in the future.
While the specific news of the patent phase verdict is good news for most people, the case still tells a sad story about software patents. The complexity found by the jury shows why software patents fail to deliver on the contract with society that they should represent. Unlike real patents, software patents contain little of value to the programmer: no sample code, only stylized algorithms. Instead, they consist mainly of a list of ways a lawyer can assert that the patent has been infringed. Even then, they are linguistically complex, leaving juries scratching their heads to interpret.