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06 Apr 2021
Back in the 1980s, everyone used the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet on their PCs. In 1989, Borland released a competitor, Quattro Pro. It used the same menu commands as 1-2-3 so that users could import their 1-2-3 spreadsheets with keyboard macros. Lotus sued Borland, and after a loss in the district court, Borland won on appeal, arguing that the keyboard commands are a "method of operation" and not subject to copyright. Lotus appealed to the Supreme Court, which deadlocked 4-4 (one justice was recused) in 1996. That meant the appeals court decision was affirmed but it did not set a formal precedent. Since then everyone assumed that settled the matter, you can't copyright the way a program works or its interfaces.Well, everyone except one guy in Hawaii.
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