LOTUS DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION, Plaintiff, Appellee, v.
BORLAND INTERNATIONAL, INC., Defendant, Appellant.
49 F.3d 807 (1
Before Torruella, Chief Judge, Boudin and Stahl, Circuit Judges.
. This appeal requires us to decide whether a computer menu command
hierarchy is copyrightable subject matter. In particular, we must decide whether, as the district court
held, plaintiff-appellee Lotus Development Corporation's copyright in Lotus 1-2-3, a computer
spreadsheet program, was infringed by defendant-appellant Borland International, Inc., when Bor-
land copied the Lotus 1-2-3 menu command hierarchy into its Quattro and Quattro Pro computer
Lotus 1-2-3 is a spreadsheet program that enables users to perform accounting functions elec-
tronically on a computer. Users manipulate and control the program via a series of menu com-
mands, such as "Copy," "Print," and "Quit." Users choose commands either by highlighting them on
the screen or by typing their first letter. In all, Lotus 1-2-3 has 469 commands arranged into more
than 50 menus and submenus.
Lotus 1-2-3, like many computer programs, allows users to write what are called "macros." By
writing a macro, a user can designate a series of command choices with a single macro keystroke.
Then, to execute that series of commands in multiple parts of the spreadsheet, rather than typing the
whole series each time, the user only needs to type the single pre-programmed macro keystroke,
causing the program to recall and perform the designated series of commands automatically. Thus,
Lotus 1-2-3 macros
shorten the time needed to set up and operate the program.
Borland released its first Quattro program to the public in 1987, after Borland's engineers had
labored over its development for nearly three years. Borland's objective was to develop a spread-
sheet program far superior to existing programs, including Lotus 1-2-3. In Borland's words, "from
the time of its initial release . . . Quattro included enormous innovations over competing spreadsheet
The district court found, and Borland does not now contest, that Borland included in its Quattro
and Quattro Pro version 1.0 programs "a
copy of the entire 1-2-3 menu tree."
so doing, Borland did not copy any of Lotus's underlying computer code; it copied only the words
and structure of Lotus's menu command hierarchy. Borland included the Lotus menu command hi-
erarchy in its programs to make them compatible with Lotus 1-2-3 so that spreadsheet users who
were already familiar with Lotus 1-2-3 would be able to switch to the Borland programs without
having to learn new commands or rewrite their Lotus macros.
In its Quattro and Quattro Pro version 1.0 programs, Borland achieved compatibility with Lotus