... so says Yves Bot, advocate general at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Mr Bot's guidance was issued in response to the July 2010 High Court case between SAS and World Programming Limited (WPL). The CJEU still needs to make a full judgement before handing things back to the High Court, but WPL will doubtless be pleased that Mr Bot appears to have sided with them (along with a US court in March 2011).
However, whilst the language itself cannot be protected, the implementation of the language *is* protected. So, the code that SAS's staff in Cary (and around the world) have written in order to implement the language cannot be copied. Anybody who wishes to produce software that can interpret the SAS language must write that interpreter all by themselves. As a result, you might expect the bigger company to be able to invest more time and effort into optimising the speed and efficiency of their product.
So, before you rush out hoping to find a cheaper, better solution, be sure to do your full due diligence on all of the candidates. Check that all elements of the language are implemented; be sure to perform some performance and reliability testing; and probe the support provisions of your potential suppliers. These things are less easy to duplicate. Caveat emptor.