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user interface copyright
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There have been several attempts, mostly by big US software
companies, to enforce patents and copyright on user
interfaces. Such legal action aims to restrict the use of
certain command languages or graphical user interfaces to
products from one software supplier. This is undesirable
because it either forces users to buy software from the
company whose interface they have learned or to learn more
than one interface. An analogy is often drawn with the user
interface of a car - the arrangement of pedals and steering
wheel etc. If each car manufacturer was forced to use a
different interface this would be very bad for car users.
Following a non-jury trial, which began in early January 1987,
a federal judge ruled on 28 June 1990 that keyboard commands
and on-screen images produced by Lotus DevelopmentCorporation's popular 1-2-3 spreadsheet are protected by
subcontractor Stephenson Software Ltd. who lost the case,
argued that the copyright applies only to the inner workings
of the software. US District Judge Robert Keeton wrote that
"The user interface of 1-2-3 is its most unique element and is
the aspect that has made 1-2-3 so popular. That defendants
went to such trouble to copy that element is a testament to
its substantiality". Defence attorneys had argued that the
Lotus commands represented "instructions for a machine rather
than the expression of an idea".