Autodesk wins legal settlement against ZWSoft

ZWSoft CEO issues apology for use of AutoCAD code; Autodesk gets undisclosed sum.

China-based CAD software vendor ZWSoft and Autodesk have announced the settlement of two lawsuits brought by Autodesk, claiming ZWSoft used “AutoCAD intellectual property” in its ZWCAD+ product. ZWSoft agrees to pull the offending software from the market, and will pay an undisclosed sum as part of a binding settlement.

ZWCAD Classic: So good it became the replacement for its update? Not exactly. (Source: ZWSoft)
ZWCAD Classic: So good it became the replacement for its update? Not exactly. (Source: ZWSoft)

Autodesk filed suit in 2014 in The Netherlands and in the United States, alleging that AutoCAD source code had been “misappropriated and improperly used” in the development of ZWCAD+, ZWSoft’s second major release of 2D CAD software. At first ZWSoft denied the allegations. Then on October 14, 2015 ZWSoft announced it would immediately begin shipping “ZWCAD Classic,” the company’s initial 2D CAD product which was not named in the lawsuits. At the time, ZWSoft said the re-release was to celebrate the company’s 15th anniversary, but those knowledgeable of the lawsuits saw it as a victory in the making for Autodesk.

The ZWSoft press release on the settlement includes a statement from CEO Truman Du: “We respect every company’s IP very much, and we do not condone these behaviors at ZWSoft. We have stopped selling ZWCAD+ in all markets, and we retract all prior statements suggesting that Autodesk’s lawsuits lack merit and were brought for anti-competitive purposes. We sincerely apologize to Autodesk for the inconvenience that our actions have caused. We appreciate very much Autodesk’s professionalism and understanding during the investigation, as well as its encouragement of fair competition. We will enhance our internal management to prevent any intellectual property infringement in the future by instituting additional development safeguards.”

End users who purchased ZWCAD+ may contact ZWSoft for a free replacement version of ZWCAD Classic.

What do we think?

The Autodesk press release says ZWSoft “discovered that an employee had, in fact, improperly used AutoCAD intellectual property developing ZWCAD+.” The ZWSoft version repeats this line, but adds, “and concealed it from ZWSoft’s management team.”

This settlement sends a strong message to anyone who would try to take shortcuts in building a clone of what has been CAD’s reigning champion for 20 years. But Autodesk went beyond stopping a competitor’s cheat; it gave ZWSoft a chance to save face. Autodesk could have sought punitive damages to put the company out of business. Instead, it gave it a chance to try again in the market. Humbled and cautious, but still alive. An iron fist might have won the battle for Autodesk, but the company also realized it would have lost the war for the Chinese marketplace.

The official comment from an Autodesk executive portrays the balance between winning and graciousness. “We appreciate ZWSoft’s openness and assistance with our investigation into the use of our intellectual property, and we are grateful for ZWSoft’s cooperation in resolving this matter amicably,” says Autodesk Senior Vice President for Asia Pacific, Patrick Williams. “With ZWSoft’s release of its ZWCAD Classic product and continued product development, we look forward to continued and robust competition in the marketplace.”