Copying content from old versions of a software of another company - possible without trobles?


I know that onces a software company makes any software, the aesthetic look and UI look of that software is automatically copyrighted, and thus any other company (read I) cannot copy it.

Anyhow, what I want to know is as to whether I can copy parts of the UI of an old version of a software made by a rival company (i.e from a very similar software in thers of functionality, made by another company)?

Intellectual Property Copywriting

asked May 27 '13 at 21:05
111 points
  • It looks like your first paragraph answers the question in your second paragraph. – Steve Jones 5 years ago
  • **When DVD production stops, does that mean you can pirate it? Can you make illegal copies of Windows XP/Vista/7, just because they aren't being made? Can you copy and sell a book without the author's permission, even when it isn't being printed? No you can't!** Sorry, I don't mean to be harsh, but that is the way it works. The law is that way because how do you know if they intend to update it and sell it again? If you really want it, you could get a attorney to help you send a letter and try to "purchase" the rights to use that GUI. Otherwise, it's illegal and you could go to jail/be fined. – Annonomus Person 5 years ago
  • Sorry, was just on a rant there. Wasn't trying to be mean. **:P** Like I said earlier, **try communicating to the old company if you can. They own it, and they can give you rights if you pay them enough. (If you do everything and throw in $1,000 there is no reason they would refuse, unless they have plans for it.)** – Annonomus Person 5 years ago
  • This question is off-topic because it is a legal question, not a startup question. – Zuly Gonzalez 5 years ago

2 Answers


Your first paragraph is at least partially incorrect, in the US. See the US Supreme Court ruling on Borland vs Lotus. It all depends on what you are copying from the look and feel of the program.

answered May 28 '13 at 10:26
Gary E
12,510 points


You copy at your own risk. Even if there is some legal ground to stand on, as the answer above suggests, competitors sometimes do whatever they deem necessary to protect their products.

If the owner of the material discovers your copying, you are likely to receive a letter from an attorney. There are likely to be grounds to file a complaint and perhaps subject you to several months of interrogatories, document requests, and depositions. This will present a serious disruption and misdirect important resources.

Also, copyright may not be your only concern. UI is increasingly becoming the subject of design patents.

Wholesale copying is rarely a good idea. Even when legal, it looks bad. If not legal, then you are facing enhanced consequences. If you really need to base your product on a competitor's, then consider consulting an attorney to figure out a design-around.

answered May 29 '13 at 23:24
826 points

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