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Software cloning and copyright

I've seen lots of software being 'cloned'. I am speaking mainly of simple software not something like Photoshop or Dreamweaver.
But anyway, is this legal?
And lets suppose someone clones the app absolutely perfectly, with the menu positions and captions and message box texts and whatever.
Will this still be legal?

The Thinker
Saturday, December 27, 2003

You'd be better off asking a copyright and patent lawyer, but my instinct is that this is perfectly legal.

See this for more info:
http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/doc/general/whatis.htm

The things you are dealing with are patents, trademarks and copyright.  Patents protect you from having others make your widget.. this can be a program.  Search google for "software patents" for all the latest hoopla surrounding this.  Provided you have no patent on your program, then is any piece of the program trademarked?  Such as a logo or design of the interface? (Maybe a Nike program has its window in the shape of a "swoosh".  You obviously couldn't reproduce this without violating their trademark.)  Finally, the copyright... did you copy any of the source code which was copywritten?  You would probably get in trouble if you copied the text verbatim from the captions which is also copywritten.

A year or two ago, someone decided they would take our entire FogBUGZ 1.0 program and reproduce it exactly... word for word.  Basically as long as they just reproduced the design and layout of the program, we couldn't stop them.  This smartie copied our entire help pages and all of our marketing material too (except he did a search and replace on FogBUGZ for his "new" program name).  As annoying as this was, we simply informed him that the text he was using in his program and website was a copyright infringement.  He proceeded to replace all the text in the program and his website with really bad english which was a hoot to read.  We figured the rewritten text was enough of a bad omen for people to realize this guy was shady.

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" (Colton, Charles Caleb (1780-1832))

Michael H. Pryor (fogcreek)
Saturday, December 27, 2003

Oh and read up on all the old Borland/Lotus "Look and Feel" lawsuits.

Joel Spolsky
Saturday, December 27, 2003

This makes interesting reading "Against User Interface Copyright"
http://lpf.ai.mit.edu/Copyright/look-and-feel.html

Matthew Lock
Sunday, December 28, 2003

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