Copyright Case

SAS Institute v. World Programming Limited

Business software developer SAS brought suit against competitor World Programming Limited (WPL) alleging breach of license and copyright infringement. The parties were also involved in litigation involving similar claims in the United Kingdom. After a jury trial, WPL appealed the district court’s decision that the UK litigation did not preclude the claims here.

On appeal, the Fourth Circuit agreed, observing many legal and factual differences between the US and UK litigation. The US suit alleged violations of US copyright and focused only on sales within the US, unlike the UK suit. On the breach of contract claims, the court refused to recognize the UK judgment based on disagreement between the public policies of the state of North Carolina and the European Union (EU). The court said, “The EU Directive that was dispositive of the contract claims in the UK litigation has no equivalent in North Carolina. Instead, the United States has taken an approach that is more protective of intellectual property, and North Carolina courts have taken an approach that is more protective of the sanctity of contract, including broad deference to parties to elect the governing law. Granting the UK judgment preclusive effect would frustrate these policy goals by barring a North Carolina company from vindicating its rights under North Carolina law on the basis of the EU’s contrary policies.”

WPL petitioned the Supreme Court for review, which it denied October 1, 2018.

Procedural History

Status: Supreme Court denied certiorari. (Oct 1, 2018) Fourth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded in part the District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina’s ruling. (October 24, 2017)

Fourth Circuit decision (October 24, 2017)