COMMACK, N.Y. Ruling Monday (Aug. 20) that copyright laws do not extend to the functionality of application programming interfaces (APIs), an arbitration panel threw out an injunction sought by Express Logic Inc. against sales of Green Hills Software Inc.'s micro-velOSity real-time operating system.
The injunction was initiated by Express Logic in June 2006 (see: Express Logic seeks injunction against Green Hills). In its filing, Express Logic claimed Green Hills had infringed on the copyright covering its ThreadX API by copying it down to the source-code level for application in micro-VelOSity.
According to Green Hills founder and CEO Dan O'Dowd, the allegations had been ridiculous from the start, given that APIs are copied all the time and are essential if applications are to run across multiple operating systems. O'Dowd cited MapuSoft Technologies Inc. as an example; that company, he noted, provides API copies openly so that code developed on one OS can be used on another.
O'Dowd said Express Logic had been guilty of "incredible hypocrisy" since it had "copied the pSOS API word for word, and we promoted and sold it" under a distribution agreement that remains in effect through 2008. Under that deal, which includes the distribution of ThreadX, the parties had agreed to bring any disputes before an arbiter rather than take direct legal action.
John Carbone, vice president of marketing at Express Logic, dismissed as factually incorrect O'Dowd's claim that Express had copied pSOS. "Wind River had just acquired ISI [Integrated Systems Inc.] and had put [ISI's] pSOS on end of life," he said. "We then developed an adaptation layer that would allow applications written for pSOS to run on ThreadX."
While the arbitration panel may have sided with Green Hills on the grounds that copyright laws do not cover functionality, Express Logic remains convinced of the substance of its initial claims. It argues that while the copying of APIs is indeed common practice, such copying is typically carried out only for the purpose of achieving compatibility.
"That's not what Green Hills did," said Carbone. "Applications for ThreadX do not run on micro-VelOSity."
In addition, "the arbiters found that Green Hills had copied some of the source code for ThreadX and used it to construct the API for micro-VelOSity. That's been our claim from the start," Carbone said.
Further, he said, "actual comments from ThreadX source code [had been] copied into micro-VelOSity and actually exist in the released version of µ-VelOSity, virtually verbatim."
Carbone thinks the cards were stacked against Express Logic in the arbitration process. "Of the 16 claims brought before the panel, they dismissed all but one," he said. "They were generally dismissive. Maybe they weren't able to be convinced of much of anything."
Express Logic, he said, is weighing its options in the wake of the panel's ruling.
As for Green Hills, "we feel vindicated," said O'Dowd.