LOTUS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION v. BORLAND INTERNATIONAL, INC.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
94-2003
Petitioner 
Lotus Development Corporation
Respondent 
Borland International, Inc.
Advocates
(on behalf of the Respondent)
(on behalf of the Petitioner)
Tags
Term:
Facts of the Case 

Lotus Development Corporation (Lotus) copyrighted a computer spreadsheet program called Lotus 1-2-3. The program's menu options were arranged in a specific menu command hierarchy. Lotus 1-2-3 also allowed users to write "macros," which designate a certain series of commands to be executed with a single keystroke. Competing software-company Borland International, Inc. (Borland) released a similar program called Quattro that contained a program called "Key Reader." Lotus claimed that Key Reader infringed on its copyright because it copied Lotus 1-2-3 macros and arranged them according to the Lotus 1-2-3 menu command hierarchy. Borland explained that it did this to allow users already familiar with Lotus 1-2-3 to also operate Quattro and argued that the Lotus menu command hierarchy did not constitute copyright-protected material.

After the District Court ruled in favor of Lotus, Borland appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The First Circuit reversed, holding that the command menu hierarchy was a "method of operation" - a category excluded from copyright protection under 17 U.S.C.102(b).

Question 

Is a computer program's menu command hierarchy a "method of operation" under 17 U.S.C.102(b), and therefore uncopyrightable?

Conclusion 
Decision: 4 votes for Borland International, Inc., 4 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

Yes. The Supreme Court affirmed the First Circuit without opinion in an equally divided, per curiam decision. Justice John Paul Stevens did not take part in the case.

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LOTUS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION v. BORLAND INTERNATIONAL, INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 10 November 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_2003>.
LOTUS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION v. BORLAND INTERNATIONAL, INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_2003 (last visited November 10, 2014).
"LOTUS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION v. BORLAND INTERNATIONAL, INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed November 10, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_94_2003.