Adobe Acquitted of InDesign Copyright Violation
I’m planning on suing all the other sites on the Web that have the word “secrets” in them and that provide content using written words. No, not really, but sometimes it seems like you can sue for anything these days, at least in America. (Is that what has become of the “American Dream”?) That’s what I think of, at least, when I read this morning that Adobe has been acquitted (again) of any wrongdoing in a copyright violation case that was brought against it by Brookhaven Typesetting Services some years ago — a case which alleged that Adobe had violated Brookhaven’s copyright because Brookhaven owned some page-layout software written in the early 90′s called K2.
Now, I’m not a lawyer, though I like arguing law and getting self-righteous as much as the next guy. So here’s the quick version of the story: In the early 1990s, a company called Science Typographers (STI) comes up with a textbook publishing page-layout program that they call K2. They try to license it to Aldus, which already had a little page-layout program called PageMaker. STI even goes as far as to send Aldus their source code for their program. Unfortunately, STI goes out of business soonafter and the program ends up in Brookhaven’s hands. In 1998, Adobe announces that they’re working on some new page-layout program, codenamed K2. The codename was later shed in favor of a better name: InDesign.
Brookhaven sued in 2001, saying that InDesign was not only a lot like their original program (it offered page-layout capabilities and could be used to lay out textbooks), but it also might offer long-document and science typesetting features someday. Six years later, Judge Ronald Whyte of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a summary judgment in Adobe’s favor (you can read the judgement in this pdf, if you’re a masochist for that kind of thing), noting that expert witnesses who looked at the two programs’ source code saw zero similarities, and that Brookhaven could not demonstrate any significant unique copyrightable similarities between the two programs. Brookhaven appealed, and a few days ago, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the original decision.
So why am I typing all this? It’s certainly not an InDesign Secret that many people care about. But given that I’ve been in the page-layout biz since 1987 and played with lots of different apps, I found the story fascinating — in a train-wreck kind of way. From the limited facts I have, I’m glad that Adobe won this appeal, and I’m sorry that Adobe’s shareholders had to bear the burden of yet another case that appears to have no real basis in reality. Unfortunately, this kind of action is not uncommon against big software companies, apparently, making them all the more wary of talking to anyone on the outside.
I suppose, however, that given the outcome of that case, I probably shouldn’t try to sue those other secrets sites… even though there are a lot of them! Here’s a list I compiled in about 5 minutes:
Ooh. Sushi secrets… mmmm…. enjoy!