American Dental Association v. Delta Dental Plans Association
126 F.3d 977 (7th Cir. 1997)
- The ADA published a book that
contained a taxonomy of different dental procedures (aka the Code).
- Basically, they came up with
a system where they gave every dental procedure (root canals, filling
cavities) a different number. That made it easy to do data entry and
keep computer records.
- Delta published a book that
contained blank forms dentists could use for their records, as well as
most of the Code that the ADA first created. The ADA sued Delta for copyright
- Delta argued that taxonomy
and nomenclature was not copyrightable.
- The Trial Court found for
Delta. The ADA appealed.
- The Trial Court found that the
Code cannot be copyrighted because it just catalogs a field of knowledge.
- Basically, the Court found
that taxonomy may not be copyrighted.
- See 17 U.S.C. §102(b).
- The Appellate Court reversed.
- The Appellate Court looked
to Baker v. Selden (101 U.S. 99
(1879)) which found that a copyright did not give an author the right to
prevent others from using the same method.
- Therefore, the ADA couldn't
stop dentists from using the ADA Code in their forms and records, or
stop Delta from distributing forms that invited dentists to use the ADA's
- However, the Court found
that it was a violation of the ADA's copyright for Delta to distribute a copy
of the code itself.