Trade Dress Protection for Computer User Interface "Look and Feel"
The University of Chicago Law Review
An employee on the way back to his office glances at the illuminated screen of a nearby computer. He sees the small trash can in the lower right corner; graphics of labeled folders, documents, and applications in the center; and a strip of words across the top of the screen. He immediately assumes that the computer is an Apple Macintosh. A spreadsheet programmer determines that an application program requires her to use a backslash to access multi-layered command menus and to strike the first
... strike the first letter of layered menu items in sequence in order to execute any series of commands. She knows the software must be Lotus 1-2-3. Apple and Lotus realize that computer users rely on these elements to identify computer programs.' Accordingly, both companies have invested time and money to build consumer recognition of their programs and have sought legal protection for their user interfaces. 2 A personal computer's user interface is "the means by which the software and user interact."' Audio-visual displays are the most obvious means of communicating with the user, but the user interface also includes other elements of the computer system such as the keyboard and printer. 4 The "look and feel" of t