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Jeff Rowe
Jeff Rowe
Jeffrey Rowe has more than 40 years of experience in all aspects of industrial design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. On the publishing side, he has written well over 1,000 articles for CAD, CAM, CAE, and other technical publications, as well as consulting in many capacities in the … More »

ZWsoft Gets Caught, Apologizes, Pays Settlement, Done. Or Is It?

November 25th, 2015 by Jeff Rowe

In its latest legal challenge and triumph, Autodesk as plaintiff and WCAD Software Co., Ltd., ZWCAD Design Co., Ltd., HK ZWCAD Software Ltd., and GLOBAL FORCE DIRECT, LLC. (doing business as ZWCADUSA) (collectively, ZWSoft)  have agreed to settle lawsuits pending in the Hague and the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In these lawsuits, Autodesk alleged that the AutoCAD source code had been misappropriated and improperly used when developing ZWCAD+. Autodesk had filed suit before the Hague in the Netherlands in February 2014  and in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in March 2014.

Although it initially denied the allegations, ZWSoft’s subsequent internal investigation revealed that an employee had, in fact, improperly used AutoCAD intellectual property when developing ZWCAD+ (another AutoCAD wanna be) and concealed it from ZWSoft’s management team. This sounds something akin to the VW emissions fiasco, and you have to wonder; how could this happen without the knowledge of management?

After the “discovery,” ZWSoft and Autodesk worked to assess and remedy the inappropriate use of Autodesk’s intellectual property. Upon learning these facts and admitting fault, ZWSoft stopped selling ZWCAD+. Customers who purchased ZWCAD+ are eligible for a free replacement version of ZWCAD Classic.

Check out the video below that demonstrates some of the features of ZWCAD+ 2015. Does it look or feel much like AutoCAD? You be the judge.

ZWCAD+ 2015

ZWSoft’s CEO, Truman Du, has apologized for ZWSoft’s use of Autodesk’s intellectual property. According to Mr. 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.”

Mr. Du added: “We will enhance our internal management to prevent any intellectual property infringement in the future by instituting additional development safeguards.”

The parties have entered into a binding settlement to resolve their pending lawsuits. Autodesk’s Senior Vice President for the Asia Pacific Region, Patrick Williams, explained: “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. With ZWSoft’s release of its ZWCAD Classic product and continued product development, we look forward to continued and robust competition in the marketplace.”

Not surprisingly, ZWSoft said that over the past several months, it has devoted significant engineering resources on a new version. Well, better late than never. The new version, ZWCAD 2017, is expected to be released in the spring of 2016.

Ironically, just a few months ago, the Chinese company claimed in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by California-based Autodesk that all its code was licensed, open sourced, and developed internally. What’s more, ZWSoft said the National Copyright Administration of the People’s Republic of China had verified the product, as well. That verification and endorsement, however, has been reversed.

But now the company is issuing an apology and claims the grounds for the lawsuits aren’t management’s fault but the work of a single engineer.

ZWSoft blaming “an employee” for commandeering the source code from AutoCAD and using it to run ZWSoft’s competing product, ZWCAD+, seems a little far fetched, but plausible (barely).

Unless someone else inspected that specific code, and unless the employee failed to edit incriminating ASCII text, all you would see is a program that looks, feels, behaves, and performs a lot like AutoCAD, which is exactly the desired behavior as an AutoCAD alternative.

In the end, kudos to ZWSoft for its admission and contrition. Maybe this lawsuit settlement is a sign that China is starting to believe that intellectual property is something to be respected. Will China next address the huge problem of software piracy that is rampant? That’s hard to say, but the software IP acknowledgement is a step in the right direction.

Financial terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but suffice it to say that while Autodesk will probably not realize a huge monetary return from this lawsuit, it has once again prevailed in its lock on what now should be considered standard open source code.

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