Myth: Copyright Theft, Apple Stole GUI from Xerox PARC Alto

Friday, March 5, 2010
By OP Editor

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Microsoft apologists, sorry to bust your bubble.

I. Did Apple steal GUI from Xerox? No. It was a pre-arranged technology / investment deal between Xerox and Apple.

II. Did Apple plagiarize the Xerox PARC Alto / Smalltalk GUI code and overall functionality? No, not only did Apple create its own architecture, but Apple also invented various GUI technologies such as drag-and-drop file manipulation (these technologies were later stolen by Microsoft).

III. Were the Xerox / PARC claims of being the original inventor of the Apple Mac GUI proven in court? No, U.S. Federal Court rejected Xerox claim of ownership of Apple GUI copyright.

Plenty of people fall for all kinds of pranks, scams, and urban legends, from rickrolls to Nigerian “royalty” emails, even Oprah got pwned (over 9000 wins).

If you still believe that Apple stole GUI from Xerox PARC, I got a bridge to sell you.


1) How Xerox Forfeited the PC War [the motley fool]

2) Apple: The first 30 years [macworld]

3) Apple Inc. wiki [wikipedia] (note that this quote doesn’t have proper attribution on wiki, however it seems to be the most detailed explanation of the $1 million in pre-IPO Apple Stock investment deal)

4) Q&A with Bob Cringely, Triumph of the Nerds: Pg 15 [pbs]

5) On Xerox, Apple and Progress [folklore]

6) Xerox vs. Apple: Standard ‘Dashboard’ Is at Issue [new york times]

7) Most of Xerox’s Suit Against Apple Barred [new york times]

8 ) Xerox Corp. v. Apple Computer, Inc. U.S. District Court 1990 [google scholar]

Update 1, 2010 March: Added Xerox vs. Apple court document analysis on Page 6.
Update 2, 2010 March: Made grammar corrections on all pages. Added to Page 3, to clarify that the quotes are not by OP.
Update 3, 2012 August: Even more grammar corrections! Yeah!


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Tags: Analysis, Apple, Legal, Myths, Prototype, Technology

12 Responses to “Myth: Copyright Theft, Apple Stole GUI from Xerox PARC Alto”

  1. Dave52

    “Did Apple Stole Xerox PARC GUI Intellectual Property Without Permission?”

    1. By definition, all stealing is without permission, else it wouldn’t be stealing.

    2. “Did Apple Stole”: Grammar checker, anyone?

  2. prak

    Dude, this is a great little bit of de-bunking, but your atrocious composition and grammar mean that I can’t send anyone here. They won’t believe anything written so poorly could be credible!

    Do you need some assistance working out the kinks in your writing?

  3. bazjapan

    So can we say Apple copied the ideas already in place at xerox then going on to later refine them? Seems like a normal process to me. Why are we apple users so brainwashed into thinking that Jobs et al were/are somehow above all. That they are God like and free of any wrong doing. That their ideas are exclusive and if they are not their own, they really should be credited with them anyway. In my opinion, Apple have become a fairly ruthless bunch that support open standards when it suits and generally speak in ‘double speak’. That said they do make cool stuff, but so do other companies! Thanks

  4. Monarky

    Oh…. I see! You’ve got a hidden agenda to keep the truth off this site! Very Lame and you’ll lose with your mis-information in the end!!!

    • Let’s see. References include New York Times, Motley fool. So sure, information from those sites are completely wrong. Not.

      Or perhaps someone cannot handle the truth?

  5. brrry

    copying with or without consent doesn’t change anything.
    still not apples invention.

  6. brrry

    Did Apple steal the idea?
    Did Apple copy the idea?
    Yes, Apple Paid for the rights to use it but it does not mean they invented it.

    • Apple did invent various aspects of the modern GUI, as explained in the article such as “drag and drop”.

      One thing that Apple does well is bringing abstract concepts and technology to the masses.


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