Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation Cases of Interest >  Cyberlaw >  Copyright

Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation

Name: Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation

Cite: 35 F.3d 1435

  • Facts: Apple had licensed certain components of its Macintosh operating system to Microsoft for its development of Windows 1.0. In the 2.0 version of Windows, Microsoft included many more components of the Macintosh operating system, including overlapping "windows" and other graphical features from Macintosh. Apple filed suit for copyright infringement, as the license agreement was solely for the development of Windows 1.0.

  • Procedural History: The United States District Court for the Northern District of California entered judgment for Microsoft (and Hewlett Packard who were a party to the suit). Apple appealed the decision.

  • Issue: Can a producer of a piece of software copyright the "look and feel" of that software?

  • Holding: The appellate court affirmed the lower court holding. Apple made the argument that the “look and feel” of the Macintosh operating system was protected by copyright and that the individual parts of the user interface, such as the appearance of windows on the screen, the fact that the “windows” were rectangular and resizable, overlap, and have title bars, were not as important as all the parts taken as a whole. Of the 189 individual graphical elements, the court held that Apple had licensed 179 of the elements to Microsoft under the Window 1.0 licensing agreement. The court ruled that the remaining 10 elements of the graphical user interface were not copyrightable as they were either unoriginal to Apple or were the only possible way of expressing a particular idea. This holding was swayed substantially by the licensing agreement between the companies. Essentially this made it a hybrid case of contract and copyright. As a result, the holding was so unique that it would be difficult to use as precedent in future cases.
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