by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 2nd 2009 4:19pm
There are already concerns over the fact that software can be covered by both copyright and patents, but why not add trade dress to the mix? Via Michael Scott we learn that Fidelity is suing a competing company because its software looks like Fidelity's, and that the basic look and feel of Fidelity's software is protected by trade dress. While you can understand Fidelity's annoyance at having to compete with software that looks the same, the history of the software market is littered with "copycat" software products that drove markets forward. Apple, famously, copied the GUI from Xerox PARC. Microsoft copied the GUI from Apple (and there was a nice little lawsuit about all of that -- though it focused on copyright and contractual issues, rather than trade dress). The spreadsheet was first created by Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston -- but Lotus eventually came out with a very similar product that (again) drove the market forward. Word Processors look quite similar to one another, and that's (mostly) a good thing. CRM software. Email software. It goes on and on. Is it really so terrible if "loan syndication" software looks similar? Yes, sometimes someone strikes out in a new direction and tries something different (and sometimes that different innovation is quite useful), but that hardly means that only one company should get to stop others from using a particular layout.
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