The Corporate Law Group

Look and Feel

As a young lawyer the Buzz worked on the first copyright “look and feel” case to go to trial. At the time the sort-of novel concept was that a copyright existed in the look and feel of software (read: interface) as well as in the source code. Well of course it did, the graphical interface was a copyrightable work of authorship as well as the text of the source code. So we felt déjà vu while reading about Apple’s displeasure with Palm’s new Pre and the intuitive way that users can slide their fingers around, controlling the interface. Apple had actually followed our earlier case, in part because their user interface looked something like that developed at Xerox Parc [boy, if that doesn’t date us nothing will]; and also because HP had a user interface that kind of looked like Apple’s, even including a garbage can. Whoaa. About Palm’s new interface, Apple COO Tim Cook reportedly said, “We will not stand for having our IP ripped off, and we’ll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal. I don’t know that I can be clearer than that.” So we say watch this space for updates on Apple v. Palm, coming soon to a theater near you. There are defenses available for interface features that are functional and not aesthetic, but aesthetic is in the eye of the jury and is easily claimed. Fire up those defenses Palm.

Paul Marotta

Leave a Reply