The judgment upholds an earlier High Court ruling in a case involving three computer games simulating pool. Under UK copyright law and EU Directives, the court ruled that the ideas behind the games cannot be protected by copyright, because copyright does not protect general ideas.
The company did claim that there was an extra right in the imagery used in its game, something beyond the copyright attaching to individual images and related to its use of a power bar used to judge the strength of a pool shot and of a cue control mechanism.
"A series of drawings is a series of graphic works, not a single graphic work in itself," said Jacob. "No-one would say that the copyright in a single drawing of Felix the Cat is infringed by a drawing of Donald Duck. A series of cartoon frames showing Felix running over a cliff edge into space, looking down and only then falling would not be infringed by a similar set of frames depicting Donald doing the same thing. That is in effect what is alleged here."
On that count alone the Nova case would fail, said the judge, but he went on to rule on the other issues in the case.
Jacob also said that there are some parts of the creative process which are not protected by copyright law, which only gives legal protection to very specific things. "Not all of the skill which goes into a copyright work is protected – the obvious example being the skill involved in creating an invention which is then described in a literary work," he said. "An idea consisting of a combination of ideas is still just an idea. That is as true for ideas in a computer program as for any other copyright work."