The team of lawyers laboring away on Oracle Corp.'s colossal patent suit against Google Inc. better be on their toes as they approach their upcoming trial date. According to a recent article in The Recorder, the judge presiding over the trial—U.S. District Judge William Alsup—is a demanding judge with an interesting approach to patent litigation.
According to Alsup, his innovative methods are designed to make what he refers to as the "bone crushing" parts of patent litigation a little more bearable. In the Oracle case, which involves claims that Google's Android mobile operating system violates certain Java-related patents and copyrights now owned by Oracle, the judge has already appointed his own damages expert. He has also called for the CEOs of the two rival companies to attend settlement talks.
As further evidence of his groundbreaking tactics, Alsup was one of the first judges in the country to sever defendants in patent suits where nonpracticing patentees name multiple, unrelated defendants. Just this month, a ban on multidefendant suits became law under the America Invents Act; claims must now arise out of the same set of transactions or occurrences.
Alsup has also raised eyebrows with his strict limits on claim construction, the often tedious process by which certain key technical terms are defined for an eventual jury. Alsup allows just six terms to be construed before trial, significantly fewer than the ten allowed under local rules. Alsup has applied the six-term limit—said to be the strictest in the country— to the Oracle-Google case as well.
Ironically, despite all of the attention on his tactics, Alsup doesn’t see himself as a patent-law maverick. "I'm as ordinary as the day is long," he told The Recorder.
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