Taking an apparently unusual step, a federal court in California has reportedly appointed an expert to testify on damages in patent infringement litigation that has generated contentious hearings over the issue between Oracle America Inc. and Google Inc. According to a news source, Oracle submitted a $6.1-billion damages report in May 2011, but the court ordered its exclusion on the ground of overreaching. Defending the litigation, Google claims that the patents in suit are neither valid nor infringed and that Oracle is not entitled to damages. The court has reportedly rejected this argument as well.

The court supported its decision by stating, “Far from complicating the jury’s decision on damages, as Google argues, the testimony of a Rule 706 expert would assist the jury by providing a neutral explanation and viewpoint. This assistance will be particularly useful because both sides have taken such extreme and unreasonable positions regarding damages in this action.” A legal scholar found the court’s decision to appoint an expert reasonable but commented, “I think that if we start going down the road where we’re going to let court-appointed fact finders testify at trial, we really are giving up some of our belief in the jury system.” See Law.com, September 2, 2011.