Website The H said that the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has declared a patent at the heart of Oracle’s ongoing legal battle with Google invalid, sparking speculation that there may now be delays while the USPTO reviews all of the patents involved. The USPTO made the move because the patent was anticipated by “prior art” – the techniques involved were known before the patent was filed by Sun Microsystems, which is now owned by Oracle. According to patent lawyer Scott Daniels, of Westerman Hattori Daniels & Adrian, five Oracle patents have now been rejected, although in one case the rejection “appears to be weak.”  Oracle can still contest the decision and may appeal against the invalidation.

It was last month revealed that Oracle is seeking “billions” in damages from Google, with some reports putting the figure sought as high as US$6.1 billion. Oracle is alleging that the Android device operating system infringes its Java patents, which it gained through its earlier acquisition of Sun. The judge in the case has called for Oracle and Google to reduce the number of infringement claims and defences made, noting that there were “132 claims from seven patents asserted in this action, and there are hundreds of prior art references in play for invalidity defences. This is too much.” The case is due to be heard in October 2011.