IP, Technology & Data

Brodies’ IP litigation partner, and TechBlogger, Gill Grassie has an article in the latest edition of the CIPA journal on the High Court’s recent decision in the SAS v WPL copyright case.

The case is important because it confirms that there is no copyright in the functional aspect of computer programs.

SAS had argued that WPL had infringed SAS’s copyright by developing a rival software application that allowed licensees of SAS’s software to run applications originally created by those licensees using SAS’s software. WPL’s application did this by imitating the functionality of SAS’s software, meaning that SAS’s customers were no longer tied in to using SAS’s applications.

The case went all the way to the European Court of Justice for clarification.

Here is the introduction to the article:

Some would say that this High Court Decision of handed down on 25 January 2013 amounted to nothing more than recognition of what had been decided in previous UK cases, in merely reinforcing the principle that there is no copyright in the functional aspects of computer programs.

Whilst this is correct, the sting in the tail is that there remains uncertainty as to the application of the principle and the precise line in practice between what is functional and what is not and is protectable.

On the whole, the decision gives a new level of clarity and certainty on the principle, a positive one from which the software industry overall should benefit. Competition should be encouraged overall, which in turn should be beneficial for the end consumer of these products.

Had the decision gone the other way, it might well have had an adverse effect on innovation in the software and computer games industries.

If you are not a member of CIPA then you can read the article by downloading this PDF.

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Martin Sloan

Partner at Brodies LLP
Martin is a partner in Brodies Technology, Information and Outsourcing group and has wide experience of advising clients on technology procurement and IT and business process outsourcing projects. Martin also advises on data protection (including the GDPR), and general technology and intellectual property law, and has a particular interest in the laws applying to social media and new technology such as mobile apps, contactless/mobile payments, and smart metering.
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