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Lotus Development v. Borland International

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Citation Edit

Lotus Dev. Corp. v. Borland Int’l, Inc., 49 F.3d 807 (1st Cir. 1995) (full-text), aff’d per curiam, 516 U.S. 233 (1996).

Factual Background Edit

Borland had copied the Lotus 1-2-3 menu command hierarchy to enable prior Lotus users to switch to Borland’s spreadsheet software "without having to learn new commands or rewrite their Lotus macros."[1] The question was whether a computer menu command hierarchy is copyrightable subject matter.

Appellate Court Proceedings Edit

The First Circuit concluded that the Lotus 1-2-3 menu command hierarchy was an unprotectible method of operation.[2]

U.S. Supreme Court Proceedings Edit

The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed this case through a 4-4 vote, with no opinion, further underscoring the difficulties in distinguishing protected expression from unprotected ideas under copyright law.

Comment Edit

The case raised a number of difficult and important issues regarding compatibility and customer "switching-costs" in the context of interpreting the scope of intellectual property protection for software.

References Edit

  1. 49 F.3d at 810.
  2. Id. at 815.

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