Lotus Development Corporation v Borland International, Inc.:
Is the Lotus 1-2-3 Menu Command Hierarchy
The Lotus 1-2-3 (a computer spreadsheet program) litigation continues to grow exponentially. In the coming months it will wind its way up the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington and present itself to yet another court, this time the highest in the United States. It is rare for copyright issues to be granted certiorari and thus what the Supreme Court has to say on the issue will have far reaching effects for American intellectual property law.
Lurking behind this litigation lies the interminable idea-expression dichotomy. The indeterminacy predicted in this area from the copyright master Learned Hand, lingers on. In two separate actions (Lotus Development Corporation v Paperback Software International and Lotus Development Corporation v Borland International Inc) Judge Robert Keeton of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts has held the Lotus 1-2-3 user interface to be a copyrightable expression encompassed by s 102 (a) of the Copyright Act 1976 (17 U.S.C.). The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit rejected Keeton J's approach in March of this year in Lotus Development Corporation v Borland International Inc holding that the Lotus 1-2-3 user interface was a "method of operation" and therefore outside the ambit of copyrightable subject matter listed in s 102 (a). The matter as has been intimated now lies at the door of the Supreme Court.
In anticipation of that decision this article outlines the judgments of Keeton J in Paperback and Borland and the Court of Appeals in Borland aiming to provide a background that will allow the reader to fully appreciate the decision of the Supreme Court when it finally arrives.
Part I: Lotus Development Corporation v Paperback Software International
The two main questions considered in this case were:
i) whether and to what extent ...