The term "clean room"
is borrowed from the ultra-clean, filtered-air rooms in which silicon
chips are made. As originally used with respect to software, the
term refers to a way of creating of software that can prove to a
court that no copying occured of protectable elements of the original
Such a clean room is used under several different circumstances
- The development of a new program designed to compete with or
to interoperate with an original program (see Sega Enterprises
- To remediate a situation in which there has been an allegation
of improper similarities (see such cases as Computer Associates
v. Altai or Nintendo v. Atari).
The essence of clean room software development in this legal sense
- The establishment of development procedures that will create
a meticulous audit trail showing every aspect and stage of the
- The creation of design documentation that records the functional
requirements of the intended program that is demonstrably devoid
of any protectable elements.
Three different groups of people are required for a clean room
- The technicians in the clean room team, uncontaminated by the
original proprietary software.
- The technicians outside the clean room, who study the original
proprietary software and prepare the functional specification
for the clean room team.
- The supervisor(s) of the clean room, who are interposed between
the team inside and outside the clean room. Such supervisors normally
consist of both legal and technical personnel.