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I am making an open-source software that is an alternative version of another very popular software, Postman. The inspiration reflects mainly on user interface and concepts. No source code was copied from this software, I wrote my own entirely.

I searched about copyright licenses and their terms of service say (Section 8):

You and your Users shall not: (...) create any derivative works based on the Services;

and also (Section 4):

You acknowledge and agree that Postman (...) have and retain all legal right (...) in the Services including but not limited to any ideas, concepts, inventions, systems, platforms, interfaces, tools, utilities, user interface, algorithms, logic, formula, scripts, work flows, processes, software, (...)

However, it gets more complicated because some parts of their code are open-source on GitHub, under Apache license.

This related question answer argues that "Copyrights are about the actual source code, not about the ideas/concepts that are represented in that source code."

Am I infringing their license by creating my software?

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    In the U.S., Lotus v. Borland says functional aspects of software GUIs aren't copyrightable expression, if I understand your use of "interface" correctly. (Otherwise, the recent Google v. Oracle case is relevant, if you mean APIs. That case is more difficult to summarize because it has a general finding and a slightly more narrow fair-use finding as an exception to its general rule.)
    – apsillers
    Dec 5 '21 at 2:23
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    I think a fairly important question is: have you accepted Postman's commercial licence? That is, have you bought and used a copy of the software, or done anything else that involved explicitly or implicitly accepting their licence terms? I'm not worried about your having looked at anything covered by Apache, it's the stuff covered by the licence you quote above that concerns me.
    – MadHatter
    Dec 5 '21 at 8:45
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(This answer is based on US law; your legal system may differ.)

You acknowledge and agree that Postman (...) have and retain all legal right (...) in the Services including but not limited to any ideas, concepts, inventions, systems, platforms, interfaces, tools, utilities, user interface, algorithms, logic, formula, scripts, work flows, processes, software, (...)

Most of the items listed are nonsensical. 17 USC 102(b) clearly states that:

In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work.

As far as copyright is concerned, there is no legal right for them to "retain" in the first place.

It is just barely possible that they are referring to patent rights rather than copyrights, but you have to explicitly apply for patents. If they own a patent, then this sort of disclaimer is redundant to patent law, and if they don't, then they have no rights to protect. However, since you say they have released portions of their software under the Apache license, then they have already given you a patent license with respect to those portions of the software. Whether this license covers the user interface (and if not, whether any patents have actually been granted) is something you will need to determine yourself. Personally, I would be rather surprised if someone really patented a user interface, but stranger things have happened.

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  • Thank you for the clarification! I believe my software will not have licensing problems. The legal cases presented by @apsillers is a clear example that GUIs and APIs are not bound to copyright on US law. I think that also applies in case that they have a patent over a GUI, right?
    – Alexandre
    Dec 11 '21 at 15:09
  • @Alexandre: Patent rights are more complicated than copyrights, because patents can (in theory) protect the functional (useful) aspects of software, although the question of whether software can or should be patentable at all is still controversial. However, as my answer indicates, the Apache license contains a blanket patent license which should cover any patentable material which is present in the FOSS portion of the software. If the GUIs are only present in the non-FOSS portion, then you may need to determine whether a patent has been granted.
    – Kevin
    Dec 11 '21 at 21:45

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