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7/26/2010
12:15 PM
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SAS Lawsuit Referred to European Court

Both sides claim victory in court case against software clone maker World Programming Ltd.

World Programming Ltd. (WPL) and SAS both found reason to cheer a London High Court ruling handed down July 23 that slapped WPL's hand for infringing SAS documentation copyrights while referring the crux of the case -- infringement upon SAS software copyrights -- to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Evoking all the flourishes of a British tabloid newspaper, U.K.-based WPL declared, "David slays Goliath as 30-year monopoly is ended," in a press release issued on Friday.

The company interpreted the ruling as a green light to sell its World Programming System (WPS) as a "lawful clone" of SAS software. The court did find that a WPS software user manual infringed on SAS documentation, "but this has no impact on WPL's customers or on WPL's ability to supply WPS or support its customers," WPL said. The company said it would rewrite the software documentation in question.

By some estimates, WPS is less than 10% of the cost of SAS software, yet it runs SAS code. With millions of dollars of software revenue potentially at stake, SAS filed its lawsuit last November alleging that WPL used the SAS Learning Edition product for purposes of developing, testing and benchmarking its WPS software in breach of the terms of the SAS Learning Edition Licensing Agreement.

WPL countered that European law provides that one can observe the operation and functioning of a computer program and develop interoperable or alternative solutions which perform the same function.

Last week's ruling pointedly rejected SAS's claim, according to WPL. But in a statement released Friday, SAS said, "the [High Court] referred questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for clarification on whether such use was permitted."

Citing the millions of dollars it invests each year in research and development, SAS said "we will vigorously pursue the remaining issues in this case and look forward to getting clarification from the ECJ.”

Even if the ECJ overturns last week's ruling, WPL suggested it could be three years before a final judgment is rendered, giving the firm plenty of time to sell WPS without restriction. In which case, even justice delayed for SAS would amount to a victory for the software clone vendor.

At press time, InformationWeek was awaiting further comment from SAS and WPL.

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