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Apple v. Formula

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Citation Edit

Apple Computer, Inc. v. Formula Int'l, Inc., 562 F. Supp. 775, 218 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 47 (C.D. Cal. 1983) (full-text), aff'd, 725 F.2d 521, 221 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 762 (9th Cir. 1984) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

In May of 1982, Formula commenced the sale of a computer kit under the trademark "Pineapple". When assembled, the kit produced a computer which, like the Apple II, was designed for personal use in the home or in small businesses. The assembled Pineapple computer in external appearance was virtually indistinguishable from the appearance of the Apple II computer and its uses and capacities were very similar if not identical. Formula, in addition, sells equipment for personal computers, some of which is identical to that which Apple sells.

Apple sued for copyright infringement, alleging that Formula's kit and its peripheral equipment contained computer programs embodied in ROMs and diskettes which were virtually identical to copies of the computer programs embodied in Apple's ROMs and diskettes. This factual claim was not disputed. Formula claimed no copyright on any of its computer programs. Formula's kits were assembled by apparently independent concerns in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Formula acknowledgeed that at least some of these entities make the kits and components according to Formula's instructions and specifications.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

The trial court entered a preliminary injunction against the defendant. The court stated that "never has the Copyright Act required that the expression be communicated to a particular audience."

Essentially, all computer programs are designed to operate a machine in such a way as to ultimately produce some useful communication to the user — that is their purpose. It is difficult to understand how they can be classified into two categories for copyright purposes, with protection afforded to one category and not the other, based on whether they directly generate that communication or whether they merely direct certain machine functions which eventually result in that expression. Either all computer programs so embodied are within the terms 'idea, procedure, system, method of operation' and are excluded, or all of them are outside those terms and thus protectable. There is nothing in any of the statutory terms which suggest a different result for different types of computer programs based upon the function they serve within the machine.[1]

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's entry of a preliminary injunction. Relying on the Apple v. Franklin decision,[2] the court held that operating system software is copyrightable, as long as "the idea is capable of various modes of expression." The court explicitly rejected the defendant's contention that to be copyrightable the expression must be communicated to the user when the program is run on a computer.

References Edit

  1. 562 F. Supp. at 780.
  2. Apple Computer, Inc. v. Franklin Computer Corp., 545 F. Supp. 812, 824 (E.D. Pa. 1982) (full-text), rev'd, 714 F.2d 1240, 219 U.S.P.Q. (BNA) 113 (3d Cir. 1983) (full-text), cert. dism., 464 U.S. 1033 (1984).

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