SAS Institute Inc. v. World Programming Ltd.


Issue(s) Presented

1. “Where SAS holds multiple copyright registrations affording it a statutory presumption of validity, and where it is well-settled that a defendant contesting the protectability of copied material must present evidence that such material was unprotectable, did the district court err in finding that WPL satisfied its burden despite failing to present evidence that all of the SAS Material it copied was unprotectable?”

2. “In light of the district court’s previous conclusion that genuine issues of material fact precluded a summary judgment finding, was the district court’s ‘copyrightability’ determination substantively and procedurally flawed as (a) if it was a summary judgment decision, it did not find that no such issues existed viewing the facts in SAS’s favor; or (b) if it were a Rule 52 decision, there were no factual findings or legal conclusions that everything WPL copied was unprotectable?”

3. “Given that the SAS Material is creative, and it is undisputed that SAS had an unlimited number of options in creating it, including selecting the elements to include and their arrangement within and among the Input Formats and Output Designs, and given that SAS’s registrations afforded the SAS Material a presumption of validity, was the SAS Material WPL copied protectable?”

4. “Did the district court err in excluding SAS’s fact and expert witnesses’ testimony based on a legally erroneous view of the burden-shifting framework?”


1. “We hold that where the court has received persuasive evidence that the asserted elements are copyright unprotectable, SAS, as the copyright holder, was obligated to identify with specificity the elements of the SAS program that it asserts as copied and to establish that those elements fall within the scope of protection extended to such elements under copyright law. Under these circumstances, the district court correctly determined that SAS did not meet its burden.”

2 & 3. “Appellate courts have long held that district courts have discretion to conduct reasonable pretrial procedures and case management to narrow the issues and ‘simplify the mechanics’. . . . Since SAS failed to provide evidence on which of the challenged elements of the SAS System were copyrightable, the district court correctly found that a jury would be unable to conduct a proper infringement analysis. Accordingly, we discern no abuse of discretion in the procedural mechanism it used to understand and manage the copyrightability issue prior to trial.”

4. “Under [the] circumstances, as to the issue of copyrightability, the expert opinion amounted to no more than theoretical speculation. The district court was correct to exercise its authority and require SAS to articulate a legally viable theory on which it expected to base its copyright infringement claims.”


Selected Proceedings and Orders
January 13, 2022
April 6, 2023