Verdict Awaits In SAS Copyright Lawsuit - InformationWeek

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7/6/2010
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Verdict Awaits In SAS Copyright Lawsuit

Analytics giant claims World Programming Ltd. breached terms of use developing low-cost alternative to its software.

World Programming Ltd. (WP), a tiny UK-based company, describes it as a David-vs.-Goliath battle against a software monopolist. SAS says WP breached terms of use in developing its World Programming System (WPS) and that the software infringes on its copyrights. At stake is millions, if not tens of millions, in software license revenue.

The lawsuit, filed by SAS in the High Court in London, alleges that WP "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,” stated John Boswell, vice president and general counsel at SAS, in a November 2009 press release.

The court case concluded last week and a verdict is expected by the end of July, according to a source close to WP who wished to remain anonymous. WP had yet to respond to a request for comment while SAS declined to discuss the case. SAS is seeking damages and an injunction to prevent the sale and distribution of WPS. If the suit is dismissed, WP will presumably continue to offer the software, which is a language interpreter said to write and run SAS applications at a fraction of the cost of authentic SAS software.

WP challenged SAS's interpretation of lawful use of SAS Learning Edition in a November 2009 statement , claiming 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. "WP have honored both the spirit and the letter of the law. We are surprised that a company of SAS’s repute would want to pursue this action," stated WP's attorney, Alexander Carter-Silk, head of the Technology Group at London-based corporate law firm Speechly Bircham.

Founded in 1976, SAS is a $2 billion software company that has its roots in research and a statistical analysis language developed at North Carolina State University as part of a project originally funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

WP first released a Windows-based version of WPS in 2003. The product family has steadily grown, but WP stepped up competition significantly in 2009 with release of Linux-based software and an SDK for creating and compiling custom code.

A simple Internet search of "SAS vs. WPS" uncovers dozens of cost and functionality comparisons. It seems we'll soon learn whether a British court casts WPS as an example of software piracy or an innovative interpreter of a decades-old language.

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