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Anatomy of a Copyright Case

Original author: Ben Sobel

Faculty: Henry B. Gutman

This term we will explore the copyright treatment of computer software by examining together the litigation to protect the user interface of the spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3, the most popular application program of its time. We will begin with some background on the law, then proceed to consider the litigation Lotus filed against Paperback Software with respect to the first, self-proclaimed 1-2-3 clone and then address in detail the Lotus v. Borland case, which ended in a 4-4 tie in the Supreme Court. In addition to discussing the relevant legal and policy issues, we will focus on the nuts and bolts litigation questions that arose in the course of multiple trials, two arguments in the First Circuit and a closely watched Supreme Court case that failed to produce a decision. In our final class, we will fast forward to the present to consider the Federal Circuit’s recent decision in Oracle v. Google (for which a certiorari petition is now pending) addressing similar copyright questions, thirty years after the complaint in Lotus v. Paperback was filed. Time permitting we will also look briefly at how patent protection for computer software has evolved over the same period. Our class will meet on the following six dates, in Hauser 102 (unless otherwise noted): Wednesday, February 4th, 5-7pm.
Wednesday, February 25, 5-7pm.
FRIDAY, March 6, 3-5pm (during designated HLS make-up class period) (WCC 3018).
Wednesday, March 11, 5-7pm.
Wednesday, March 25, 5-7pm.
Wednesday, April 8, 5-7pm.