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In a program I am developing, I need to use an improved ListView. The ObjectListView seems to satisfy my needs, except it is GPL and thus unusable in my commercial application. I believe, however, that we can develop our own replacement in-house, using the documentation from the site, without looking at the code.

Is there any legal risk in doing so? Does our control need to be GPL or any other license restrictions?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

There will sort of always be legal risk whatever you do. But relating to your scenario, not so long ago Oracle sued Google claiming that Google had infringed their copyright by implementing several Java APIs. Oracle lost and the judge said

So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality - even when the implementation is different.

What you describe seems similar and from that perspective it should be OK for you to write your own implementation of ObjectListView.

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I might be wrong, but my understanding of this case was that the Java API was public, whereas the implementation was proprietary. Whether the same would apply in this case would depend on whether the ObjectListView API is GPL'd or just the implementation. –  Baqueta Jan 9 '13 at 11:20
    
Many thanks. I understand that lawyers are the only weapon to deploy against lawyers. But your answer does help in shaping my expectations. –  Muhammad Alkarouri Jan 9 '13 at 19:35
    
The entire existence of PCs not built by IBM relies on this - and should have been obvious to Oracle at the time –  Martin Beckett Feb 17 '13 at 5:20

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