Autodesk Accuses SolidWorks of Unfair Competition

30 Sep, 2008 By: Kenneth Wong

Legal battle heats up over use of the term DWG.

Twelve ordinary U.S. citizens might eventually be asked to decide whether Autodesk has the right to stop its archrival SolidWorks from using three letters -- D, W, and G -- in ways it finds unacceptable.p>

According to the papers Autodesk filed on September 19, 2008, Autodesk feels SolidWorks has been employing “unfair competition, false designation of origin, false advertising, trademark dress infringement, unfair business practices, deceptive business practices, unlawful business practices, misleading advertising.”

Explaining its grievances, Autodesk argues, “DS [Dassault Systemes] SolidWorks specifically markets to [Autodesk’s] AutoCAD users to offer them model-based software products. Through a variety of improper tactics designed to mislead consumers and undermine the value of the Autodesk and DWG brand and technology, DS SolidWorks is unfairly competing with Autodesk.”

Examples cited by Autodesk include, “a product naming strategy for certain of [SolidWorks] CAD software products that use the DWG name ... DWGeditor, DWGgateway, DWGseries, DWGviewer, and DWGnavigator.”

Furthermore, Autodesk feels SolidWorks has misrepresented “the quality and capabilities of its software products” with claims that SolidWorks’ software can “help you maintain file and design process compatibility, win business and save time -- all while avoiding expensive AutoCAD upgrade costs or subscription fees,” that “DWGgateway is the first free data translation plug-in that lets AutoCAD users work easily with DWG files created by any version of AutoCAD software,” and that DWGnavigator will “save DWG files to any version of AutoCAD software.”

Autodesk would also like to block SolidWorks from using a slim-lined square border around the word “real” in SolidWorks’ real solutions marketing campaign. Autodesk asserts that the “striking similarity” of the “real” border to the Autodesk Inventor logo amounts to “an intentional effort to trade off of Autodesk’s goodwill and cause confusion.”

How similar are the square borders that appear in Autodesk’s Inventor logo (top) and SolidWorks’ real solutions campaign logo? Autodesk claims they bear a striking resemblance.
Past Efforts
This isn’t the first time the AutoCAD giant has gone to war with others over the same three letters of the alphabet. In the past, the company has sued Open Design Alliance (ODA), an industry consortium that provides a reverse-engineered technology to read and write DWG files. The suit, initiated by Autodesk in November 2006, came to an end with a negotiated settlement in April 2007.

In the stipulated motion and consent judgment on file, a U.S. district court in Seattle concluded, “Autodesk has demonstrated both a strong likelihood of success on the merits and the possibility that it faced immediate, irreparable injury from ODA’s conduct, and granted a temporary restraining order.” Because the court feels “ODA’s simulation of Autodesk’s TrustedDWG technology infringed Autodesk’s rights on its federally registered Autodesk mark ... the court hereby permanently restrains and enjoins ODA, its agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all others in active concert or participation with Defendant, from simulating Autodesk’s TrustedDWG technology. ...”

To comply with the order, ODA discontinued version 2.1.0 of its DWGdirect libraries, replacing it with version 2.1.1, which doesn’t include the affected code.

Overseas Battle
All is not quiet on the European front either. The DGW colonization -- the rush to register and trademarked DWG-related terms -- has spread to the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market, the trademark and design registration office of the European Union. According to its status report (as of September 30, 2008), Autodesk succeeded in registering the term “RealDWG” as a trademark, but failed to do the same with “TrustedDWG.”

SolidWorks tried to register the terms “DWGgateway” and “DWGeditor,” but the applications were rejected. “DWG” itself currently remains an orphan. Autodesk tried to take possession of it, but met with rejection in August 2008.

Autodesk declined to discuss the case. SolidWorks’ press office responded, “We believe Autodesk’s unfounded lawsuit is completely without merit. We intend to fight this and vigorously defend our position in Federal Court.”

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