The Supreme Court took up a case involving ownership of computer technology in this 1996 case.
Lotus Development Corporation copyrighted a computer spreadsheet program called “Lotus 1-2-3.” Borland International, a competing software company, released a similar program called “Quattro,” that contained a program called "key reader."
Lotus claimed that key reader infringed on its copyright because it copied Lotus 1-2-3 macros and arranged them according to the Lotus 1-2-3 menu command hierarchy. Borland said it did this to allow users already familiar with Lotus 1-2-3 to also operate Quattro and argued that the Lotus menu command hierarchy did not constitute copyright-protected material.
After the District Court ruled in favor of Lotus, Borland appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. The federal court reversed the lower court’s decision, holding that the command menu hierarchy was a "method of operation" - a category excluded from copyright protection under 17 U.S.C. (United States code) 102(b).
The case then went before the U.S. Supreme Court.