Intellectual Property

Case Rules

A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster, Inc.

Computer Associates v. Altai, Inc.

  • One can prove copyright infringement by showing that:

    1. The defendant had access to plaintiff's copyrighted work.
    2. The defendant's work is substantially similar to the plaintiff's copyrightable material.
  • Page 394

    Where "the fundamental essence or structure of one work is duplicated in another," courts have found copyright infringement.

  • To find whether the non-literal parts of computer programs are substantially similar, a three-part process must be used:

    1. Isolate the abstract elements of the works and identify which are ideas and which are expressions
    2. Filter out the non-protectable elements from the products
    3. Compare the remaining elements


    This test furthers the constitutional policies underlying the Copyright Act. It prevents first comers from "locking up" basic programming techniques, while still affording programs protections.

Diamond v. Chakrabarty

Natural phenomena are not patentable; only man-made things are.

Graham v. John Deere Co.

Page 746

[T]he scope and content of the prior art are to be determined; differences between the prior art and the claims at issue are to be ascertained; and the level of ordinary skill in the pertinent art resolved. Against this background, the obviousness or nonobviousness of the subject matter is determined. Such secondary considerations as commercial success, long felt but unsolved needs, failure of others, etc., might be utilized to give light to the circumstances surrounding the origin of the subject matter sought to be patented.

Mayo Collaborative v. Prometheus Labs

Laws of nature are not inherently protectable, but applying a law of nature or math to a known structure or process may be patentable. This involves more than just stating the law and saying "apply it."