US court proceedings attempting to protect copyright in the look and feel of software programs are rapidly degenerating into farce, and the latest suit, seeking $100m damages against Lotus Development Corp and founder Mitch Kapor and brought by the remains of the company that developed VisiCalc, tips the issue right over the edge. The plaintiff is SAPC Inc – the name Software Arts was sold to Lotus with most of the companies assets, including VisiCalc, in 1985 – of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it is suing Lotus in US District Court in Boston, alleging that between 1982 and 1985 the issue of copyrights in the look and feel of programs had not been properly tested, but the decision in the Digital Communications-Soft-Klone case puts it beyond doubt. The founders of Software Arts, Dan Bricklin and Robert Frankston, are opposed to the suit, which is being pursued by the three other directors of SAPC. The suit alleges that Kapor misappropriated confidential information and trade secrets when he left VisiCorp and formed Lotus to develop and market 1-2-3. The plaintiffs own Ontio Corp, which has a 1-2-3 clone it wants to market at $30, and the suit is seen as a pre-emptive strike against Lotus, which has look-and-feel suits out against two 1-2-3 cloners, Paperback Software and Mosaic Software.
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