The litigation battle between Oracle and Google has been rife with drama and setbacks over the last year but it looks like there might finally be a light at the end of the tunnel. The federal judge handling the case in northern California issued a scheduling order today, setting the final jury trial to begin "on or after" March 19, 2012. Considering the complexity of the issues and the potential ramifications this case could have on Google and Android, it actually moved along at a rather brisk pace — taking just over 18 months to get to trial.

The judge's scheduling order breaks the trial into three distinct phases:

  • Phase 1: claims that Google infringed Oracle's Java-related copyrights. Oracle will have 16 hours to present its infringement evidence and Google will have 16 hours to present its defense evidence.
  • Phase 2: claims that Google infringed Oracle's Java-related patents. Each side will be given 12 hours to present evidence.
  • Phase 3: all remaining issues will be addressed here. This is a catch-all to resolve potential issues that come up during the first two phases of trial. More importantly, this stage will give the parties a chance to present evidence on the issues of monetary damages and willful infringement after the jury has properly defined what, if any, liability Google still faces.

We saw a proposed trial date for this case come and go back in October, so while there's currently nothing to indicate additional delays, it shouldn't really surprise anybody if the date gets pushed back a little. And, of course, there's always the possibility that Oracle and Google will arrive at some sort of settlement as the pressures of an imminent trial become a bit more real. We'll just have to wait and see what happens as March approaches.