In 1988, Apple Inc. filed a landmark lawsuit against Microsoft. The suit claimed that Microsoft Windows used graphical user interface (GUI) parts too similar to those in Apple products such as the Macintosh operating system.
At a judge's behest, Apple eventually named more than 200 GUI operating system components, such as resizable, overlapping windows, title bars and other features that it felt encompassed a specific "look and feel" protected by copyright. Considering the size and wealth of the companies involved, and the technological minutia that the case revolved around, it's no surprise that the case dragged on for about five years.
Apple had licensed portions of its GUI to Microsoft for Windows version 1.0. However, Gates' development teams took full advantage of those GUI elements for subsequent Windows operating systems, too. As the lawsuit progressed, newer versions of Windows based on those GUI components became more and more popular.
Apple lawyers argued that their licensing agreement (including GUI design) with Microsoft was in effect for only one version of Windows. Microsoft disagreed. As the case unfolded, Gates told InfoWorld newsweekly, "We're saying that these graphic interface techniques, the ideas, are not copyrightable."
In 1993, Judge Vaughn Walker with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Microsoft, throwing out all of Apple's arguments [source: Andrews]. However, despite the legal system's judgment, and similar to the other Gates myths we've mentioned, conspiracy theories and rumors about these events will probably be around for as long as we use the Web.