The drawn-out, patent infringement battle between Oracle and Google finally seems to have a clear path now that there is an official trial start date slated for April 16.
Nevertheless, it looks like higher legal powers still want to give the possibility of a settlement another chance. Lawyers from both sides have been ordered to propose potential dates for a conference settlement to take place before April 9.
This comes after the necessity for a trial became plainly clear as even dragging in CEOs Larry Page and Larry Ellison to court last September couldn't bring about a settlement.
Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal -- the same judge who presided over the failed settlement talks last fall -- seems to think that there's still a chance to settle out of court anyway.
As a reminder, Oracle is suing Google over Java-related patents and technology that appear on the Android mobile operating system. Yet, how many and which patents have routinely been up for debate, causing inevitable delays for the case.
Google's lawyers have repeatedly responded by discussing Google's relationship with Sun Microsystems, Java's creator now owned by Oracle. Google argued that Sun was a big fan of Android from the start, seeing it as a tool to "spread news and word about Java."
Oracle hoped to get a trial started last July when the two companies met at the United States Courthouse in San Francisco -- only to be scolded by Judge Alsup for not properly specifying which exact patents that Google was allegedly violating.
Just recently, the patent suit was cut down, and it looks like Oracle would be lucky to extract as much as $100 million from Google in this suit.
Alsup assigned a trial start date on Halloween 2011. Just before October 31, Google petitioned Alsup regarding a series of questions that it believed still needed answering, and Alsup responded by delaying the trial to after the end of 2011.
That obviously didn't happen, and the two Silicon Valley giants were actually very close to getting a trial underway as March 19 was announced as the start date back in January.
If the two companies can finally manage to agree upon a settlement by April 9, then a trial might never happen. However, given the storied history of this case already, that seems unlikely.
This item first appeared on ZDNet's Between the Lines blog under the headline "Judge to Oracle-Google: Settle this Android flap."