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I had a question about the legality of duplicating the design of a commercial OS to an Open Source desktop. Let me just cut to the chase.

Is it illegal to create a Desktop Window manager that behaves like, and looks like the Macintosh GUI?

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You might want to check out Its based off gnustep, which itself provides parts of cocao. – TechZilla May 1 '12 at 20:36
up vote 2 down vote accepted

As far as I know, patents in Desktops are applied usuaislly to the interactivity concepts. The color pallete, font size, menu items, i.e., the style are not patentable. What can be patented are the concepts of a desktop - such as: a dock and finder (their interactivity and possible algorithm).

Since the style is not patented, many FOSS substitute applications clone or inspire the GUI style of their proprietary versions (examples as: Cheese and Photobooth, Pidgin and MSN).

Now, shipping the desktop GUI with a patented concept such as a dock can infringe patents. So, in the end the company needs to be careful to use abstract interactive desktop concepts on their GUI.

Side note: The problem with patents is that usually they are very very broad. For example, in the dock component patent we can definitely fit the Ubuntu Unity and Windows 7 Menu.

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That's interesting, I didn't know that. I appreciate your help. It's kind of difficult to gauge these issues for me, cause' I see so many great components out there, like Docky, and Nautilus. I kind of had the idea to get a few guys together and make something similar to the Mac GUI, while harnessing the usefulness of Ubuntu. I think it would be a killer distro, however, I want to make sure I'm not infringing on Apple's rights. If so, this thing is dead on arrival. – willbeeler Feb 3 '12 at 13:34

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