The Office UI or Fluent User Interface (better known as "Ribbon") is controlled by a "license" based on the user-interface idea, not any actual implementation or code. This is the license you are warned about when you install recent versions of Delphi. In fact, even if Delphi includes a totally custom and VCL-based implementation of the Ribbon control, using its UI is subject to a Microsoft license agreement.

Here is a sample DBnavigator in a Ribbon, I wrote for a projects discussed in my Delphi 2009 Handbook:

I signed the agreement a few years back. Because of that, today I got a very strange email from an Alan Maier of Microsoft:


On behalf of the Microsoft Office Applications Group, I want to thank you for your past interest and participation in the Office UI Licensing Program. This email is to inform you that the Microsoft Office 2007 UI license and guidelines have been updated for Microsoft Office 2010

The mail includes also a link to the page where I can obtain an updated license Now, if I got it right, even if you signed the original deal you have to sign it again, it the original one will become void. Certainly possible, but quite strange. Still, it takes very little time to sign and it is free of course.

As you provide your data and digitally sign the agreement, you are forwarded to a page where you can downlaod the udpated Ribbon documentation, a PDF file called  "2010 Microsoft Office Fluent UI Design Guidelines" The mail also specifies that the license is to " use the Microsoft-claimed intellectual property in the Office UI " and that it is required "when the software developer does not use one of the Microsoft-provided implementations of the UI". So it is obvious this license is required by the Delphi VCL implementation.

There are elements of this overall situation that I'm not terribly happy with: the need to license a UI idea, the fact one side can void the existing license and force you to change your implementation, and the different licenses depending on the implementation you pick. Nice Ribbon to all of you!