Published April 4, 2014 | By Kenneth
Did ZWCAD+’s similarity to AutoCAD result from source code infringement? It’s now the subject of a U.S. case.
Did China-based ZWSOFT copy some of Autodesk’s AutoCAD code while developing a competing product? Autodesk seems to think so.
On March 26, the company filed a case against ZWCAD Software Co., Ltd., ZWCAD Design Co., Ltd., and Global Force Direct, LLC. (ZWCAD’s sales arm targeting the U.S. market), alleging copyright infringement and trade secret misappropriation (case summery here).
In the complaint filed with The U.S. District Court, Northern California, Autodesk writes, “The ‘new’ ZWCAD+ is not merely an AutoCAD ‘work-a-like,’ and it does not just share similar interfaces and commands. In crucial and unmistakable ways, ZWCAD+ performs identically to prior versions of AutoCAD. This duplication, which is at the source code level, could not have been accomplished through coincidence or the application of similar programming logic.” The complaint cites “the existence of ‘bugs,’ programming remnants, and other idiosyncrasies in software code” that suggest a shared origin.
Autodesk is asking for, among other things:
entry of judgment holding defendants liable for infringing the Autodesk copyrights;
entry of judgment holding defendants liable for misappropriating Autodesk’s trade secrets;
an order that all copies made or used in violation of Autodesk’s copyrights or trade secrets, and all means by which such copies may be reproduced, be impounded and destroyed or otherwise reasonably disposed of;
damages in an amount greater than $75,000.00 or in the alternative for copyright infringement, statutory damages under the law; and
Today, ZWCAD Design, a division of ZWSOFT, issued a public statement defending its product. ZWCAD states it developed ZWCAD+ independently, a fact verified by the National Copyright Administration of the People’s Republic of China. It also says Autodesk’s allegation is “merely a unilateral conclusion based on some similarities of function and interface.”
ZWCAD Design pointed out Autodesk has filed a similar case against it and its partners in the Netherlands. Details of this case are not readily available. According to ZWCAD, verdict is pending, and both parties have been instructed not to discuss the Netherlands case in public.
In ZWCAD’s view, the U.S. lawsuit is just an extension of Autodesk’s “vicious market competition plan.” The company accuses Autodesk of “using its resource advantage in a bid to strike down a future competitor.” Furthermore, it interprets Autodesk’s 80% price cut of AutoCAD in China in 2009 as a move that “violated the principle of fair and free market competition.”
Greg Eden, VP of Autodesk and the company’s brand and communication manager, said, “We believe ZWSOFT developed its core product with unauthorized use of our technology. We have taken this [legal] action as part of our continued efforts to defend our intellectual property. While we encourage vigorous competition in the market place, we cannot tolerate IP infringement.”
Despite the availability of many free or low-cost 2D drafting programs, AutoCAD and AutoCAD LT still remain the industry standard. Rival products include DoubleCAD XT (from IMSI/Design), DraftSight (from Dassault Sytemes), ARES (from Graebert), and ZWCAD+, the subject of the recent lawsuit. Since AutoCAD is Autodesk’s intellectual property, those who want to create a competing product usually relies on IntelliCAD‘s technology, an alternative for reading and writing DWG files compatible with AutoCAD.
ZWCAD is marketed to both mechanical and architectural sectors, just as AutoCAD is. In 2010, ZWSOFT acquired the U.S. 3D CAD company VX CAD/CAM, leading to the eventual launch of ZW3D, a 3D mechanical modeling package.