There is a common myth that copyright law protects ideas. This is not true; copyright is about protecting expression of an idea, not the idea itself. In fact, the law states “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied.”
A famous example of someone who believed that he would protect his idea utilizing copyright was Steve Jobs, who learned his lesson the hard way. In the 1980s Jobs copyrighted his idea for the Apple computer’s user interface. Not long afterward, Bill Gates created Windows with a system similar to Jobs’ design. Jobs sued, but the courts found in favor of Gates because “Apple cannot get patent-like protection for the idea of a graphical user interface, or the idea of a desktop metaphor.” Jobs later used patents, trademarks, and other methods to protect Apple products. However, this example demonstrates how everyone can use ideas under copyright law, even when they are similar.
For more information about the Gates vs. Jobs Lawsuit go to: