The Court of Justice of the European Union recently confirmed that computer functions are not eligible for copyright protection. While the decision is clearly a win for the software industry and its reliance on reverse engineering, its impact on U.S. copyright litigation remains to be seen.
In its decision in the case, SAS Institute Inc. v. World Programming Ltd., the EU court concluded that “neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program” are expressive enough to qualify for copyright protection.
“To accept that the functionality of a computer program can be protected by copyright would amount to making it possible to monopolise ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development,” the court said.
As we have discussed on this blog, Oracle and Google are currently litigating several software copyright infringement claims here in the U.S. In that case, Oracle argues for an even broader interpretation of copyright law as it applies to software. Oracle contends that the structure, sequence, and organization of its Java APIs are copyrightable, while Google maintains that Oracle is overreaching.
While U.S. court are clearly not bound by foreign copyright rulings, it will be interesting to see if the EU decision has any impact on this case.