Cisco Systems v. Arista

Imagine producing a classic Western without cowboys, saloons, or standoffs. This seems almost inconceivable because these elements are deeply integral to the genre – so much so, in fact, that they are essentially necessary for the creation of such works. Copyright law recognizes and accounts for this, by denying copyright protection to such elements under the “scènes à faire” doctrine. “Scènes à faire” literally means “scenes that must be done.” This doctrine traditionally has been applied in the context of literature and film, to keep classic tropes free for use by artists looking to create works in such genres. The Federal Circuit will soon decide, in Cisco Systems v. Arista, whether the scènes à faire doctrine can also be applied in the context of computer programming, to deny copyright protection for software commands that have become commonplace within the field.