Today's jury verdict that Google's Android didn't infringe Oracle Java patents no doubt left many at Google breathing sighs of relief.
As Android programming evangelist Tim Bray tweeted, "F***ing A."
Google took this case to the brink, refusing to settle on either Oracle's copyright or patent infringement charges, and has emerged with minimal scarring so far. Some copyright issues remain unresolved, and there are always appeals. So far, things look a lot better than the prospect of the $2.6 billion Oracle sought. But it ain't over 'til it's over, as Yogi Berra said.
The question that comes up next: How much will the victory embolden Google?
It's an important question, because the company is in the center of an intellectual property storm.
First are are a host of patent infringement lawsuits brought against Android phone makers including HTC, Motorola Mobility, and Samsung. Next, just yesterday, Google acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, a deal that began as an attempt to obtain the company's patent hoard. And more sabers are being rattled: the Rockstar Consortium formed by Apple, Microsoft, and RIM is on the patent licensing warpath after buying 6,000 patents and patent applications from defunct telco Nortel Networks for $4.5 billion.
It doesn't seem likely Google will take up arms on a patent offensive of its own, in which it would aggressively pursue licensing deals under threats of legal action. That's what Microsoft has been doing for years, first with Linux and now with Android, and it's what Apple is doing, supposedly because Steve Jobs was incensed by iPhone and iPad rivals' designs.
But Google could change its behavior in subtler ways. With its new patent arsenal and a very high-profile patent victory in hand, Google could conclude it's fine to push the patent envelope with Android. Or it could offer some sort of indemnification to Android allies, perhaps more than the help it offered HTC. That might ease partners' concerns.
I wouldn't expect it, though. Patent lawsuits are expensive, and even though the jury apparently was largely on Google's side in Oracle's case, jury trials are something of a crapshoot. How would you like to win over 12 randomly selected citizens about the finer points of symbolic resolution and simulated code execution? It would be foolish to assume that today's success can be generalized.
And from an IP perspective, Google is still more the new kid on the block than the established incumbent throwing its weight around.
It has a better defensive portfolio now, and it has shown that proofs of patent infringement don't necessarily come easy, but Google still has a lot more to lose than gain in the courts.