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SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd [2013] EWHC 69 (Ch)

Case Summary  |  Judgment  |  31 January 2013


Martin Howe QC, Robert Onslow and Isabel Jamal recently acted for the defendants in SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd [2013] EWHC 69 (Ch), a case raising issues of subsistence and infringement of copyright in the functionality of computer programs, programming languages and interfaces commands, and related instruction manuals.

Following the judgment of the Court of Justice in Case C-406/10, SAS Institute Inc v World Programming Ltd [2012] 3 CMLR 4, Arnold J held that copyright does not protect a programming language as such, or its interfaces, data file formats or functionality. Accordingly, those unprotected elements should be disregarded for the purposes of infringement. It followed that the defendants had not infringed copyright in those elements.

He also held that the defendant’s use of copies of the SAS Learning Edition to investigate the functioning of the SAS software so as to replicate its functionality in their own software was covered by the defence based on Article 5(3) of the Software Directive, so that that use did not infringe copyright even if it fell outside the scope of the defendant’s contractual licence to use the Learning Edition.