Same Functionality Does Not Mean Software Copyright Breach

Just because a new software product produces the same results, operates in a similar fashion or looks similar to pre-existing software does not mean that the copyright in the original software has been infringed.

When the owner of a sophisticated business data analysis software package saw new software that emulated a great deal of the functionality of its own product, it alleged that the new product infringed its copyright.

One particularly interesting aspect of the claim was the allegation that the new software had used the technical manuals for the original software as a technical specification and had substantially copied them.

In its ruling, the Court of Appeal commented that ‘It is a cliché of copyright law that copyright does not protect ideas: it protects the expression of ideas’.

After a lengthy review of the facts, the Court upheld the decision of the lower court that the only breach of copyright was a limited amount of copying of the original manual by the vendors of the new software.

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