Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation is Decided in Favor of Microsoft

Apple Computer, Inc. v. Microsoft Corporation, 35 F.3d 1435 (9th Cir.

1994) was a copyright infringement lawsuit in which Apple Computer, Inc. (now Apple Inc.) sought to prevent Microsoft Corporation and Hewlett-Packard from using visual graphical user interface (GUI) elements that were similar to those in Apple's Lisa and Macintosh operating systems. The court ruled that, "Apple cannot get patent-like protection for the idea of a graphical user interface, or the idea of a desktop metaphor [under copyright law]..." Because Mac's GUI was heavily based on unlicensed GUI developed before by Xerox, in the midst of the Apple v. Microsoft lawsuit, Xerox also sued Apple on the same grounds. The lawsuit was dismissed because Xerox had waited too long to file suit, and the statute of limitations had expired. Apple lost all claims in the suit except for the ruling that the trash can icon and file folder icons from Hewlett-Packard's NewWave windows application were infringing. The lawsuit was filed in 1988 and lasted four years; the decision was affirmed on appeal in 1994, and Apple's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court was denied.

[I]n March 1988, Apple had brought suits against Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, charging copyright infringement. Four years later, in the spring of 1992, Apple's case was dealt a severe blow in a surprise ruling: copyright protection cannot be based on 'look and feel' (appearance) alone; rather, 'specific' features of an original program must be detailed by developers for protection