California Lawyer magazine named 60 attorneys around the state to receive the 17th annual California Lawyer Attorneys of the Year Awards. Their achievements had a significant impact in 2012. The awards recognize 27 accomplishments in 21 areas of legal practice. The honored attorneys include prosecutors, public-interest lawyers, and attorneys from international law firms.
Bob Van Nest won the intellectual property category for leading the team which defeated Oracle's $6 billion copyright and patent case on behalf of Google.
Oracle Corporation v. Google Inc.
Keker & Van Nest represented Google in a high-stakes patent and copyright infringement trial brought by the Oracle Corporation, billed as the "smartphone trial of the century." The case was a battle between two of Silicon Valley’s most respected and powerful companies in which Oracle initially sought nearly $6 billion in damages and an injunction forcing Google to change the way it used and distributed the popular Android operating system, which powers more than 300 million smartphones and tablet computers. However, prior to trial, we were able to significantly narrow the scope of the case and potential damages claims, by having five of the seven patents Oracle asserted against Google ruled invalid by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. A sixth was ruled invalid on a preliminary basis.
Filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Oracle alleged that the Android technology Google developed for smartphones and tablets infringed Oracle's Java API patents. Oracle bought the Java programming language through its acquisition of Sun Microsystems in January 2010. On behalf of Google, we argued that unlike complete programs, the APIs are simply building blocks that are comparable to letters or words in a language, and therefore aren't covered under U.S. copyright law because they aren't a form of creative expression. If Oracle had prevailed, it could have created havoc in the software industry by throwing up legal hurdles to the common use of APIs.
Following repeated rounds of motions and briefing, the judge dismissed the bulk of Oracle’s copyright claims, and at trial the jury rendered a unanimous verdict rejecting all claims of patent infringement. Although the jury decided that Google infringed an Oracle copyright on nine out of millions of lines of source code, the case is considered a sweeping victory for Google, with zero damages.