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Autodesk Suing to Keep Format Closed 365

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the haven't-we-been-through-this-before dept.
An anonymous reader writes "AutoCAD is by far the industry standard CAD tool for engineering drawings. When I was an engineering student it was on every computer in the college of engineering. Autodesk, the makers of the AutoCAD software, are attempting to quash an effort to reverse-engineer the proprietary binary format used by AutoCAD. Looking at the court order, their whole argument revolves around something called TrustedDWG that basically looks like a digital signature that verifies the file was created by an Autodesk product."
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Autodesk Suing to Keep Format Closed

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  • Trademark, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Saxerman (253676) * on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:19PM (#17313584) Homepage
    From the court papers, the restraining order is against "using or simulating Autodesk's TrustedDWG technology, including but not limited to the Autodesk watermark and/or TrustedDWG code, without Autodesk's authorization, from distributing DWGdirect libraries that use, incorporate or simulate Autodesk's TrustedDWG technology or that otherwise insert or mimic the unauthorized Autodesk watermark and/or TrustDWG code."

    It further says this is granted under the Lanham Act, which is "found in Title 15 of the U.S. Code and contains the federal statutes governing trademark law in the United States. "

    My (limited) search of the 41 sections of the Lanham Act finds no reference to any technological protections, and everything I can find points to other sections of federal law which deal directly with patent and/or copyright. Anyone running some legal codecs care to explain how a trademark grants protection for code and technology?
    • Re:Trademark, what? (Score:5, Informative)

      by shystershep (643874) * <[bdshepherd] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:59PM (#17314118) Homepage Journal

      The Lanham Act is the federal trademark code. What Autodesk is trying to argue is that anyone 'faking' their 'TrustedDWG' technology is violating their trademark. The best analogy I can think of is GM saying you can only put 'genuine GM' parts in their cars. Of course, it is a lot more complex than that here, and judges aren't known for their technological savvy. The keystone of trademark law, though, is how likely something is to confuse the consumer. In other words, for Autodesk to win they will have to show that consumers are likely to confuse this imitation 'TrustedDWG' for the real thing; i.e., that since it's a .dwg file, it must have been made/come from Autodesk.

      Not sure what I think of their chances. On the one hand, AutoCAD is so ubiquitous that anyone that has any need for CAD probably automatically associates .dwg files with AutoCAD. On the other hand, well . . . who gives a shit? It'd be like MS claiming trademark in .doc files -- sure, everyone knows .doc files = Word, but it's something that's below the radar. It's not like you go into a store to buy a .doc or .dwg file, and might be confused about it's source.

      It's been a while since I've looked at the Lanham Act, but I think Autodesk would have to prove some sort of damage, even if they were able to show likelihood of confusion.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by MindStalker (22827)
        Its not about confusing the customer in this case its about confusing the product. Lets my GM car has some sorta scanner on it that looks for the GM logo on every part installed. Of course in the car example you would be violating the trademark, but lets say I do some mumbo jumbo that makes it visually look to a human eye to not look anything like the GM logo. The fact that I'm using the GM logo at all is the issue then.. Is it legal to use another companies logo on your product even if the customer never
      • Re:Trademark, what? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by FLEB (312391) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:13PM (#17314308) Homepage Journal
        The most compelling argument I could see them giving is that people could start considering Autodesk's products inferior for their inability to open subtly malformed (but supposedly "genuine") files correctly. It's kind of like Apple only legally allowing their software on their own hardware so they can limit the possible configurations and better manage the user experience (not that I agree with either stance, but it's where they're coming from, I imagine).
      • Re:Trademark, what? (Score:5, Informative)

        by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:32PM (#17314568) Homepage Journal
        Not sure what I think of their chances.

        I'm not sure either, and IANAL, but if I wanted to contest this I would probably cite Sega v. Accolade [eidolons-inn.net] (Scroll down, copied text appears here:

        If you will recall from our earlier discussion, it was none other than Electronic Arts who first determined how to bypass the proprietary Sega code in the Genesis and thereby produce its own videogame cartridges. In response to EA's actions, Sega developed a new security system for the Genesis and quietly incorporated it into the system boot ROM starting with the 1991 production batches. Sega called this proprietary code the TradeMark Security System (TMSS). In essence, it was a simplified version of the 10NES lockout chip that Nintendo had used in the NES. Sega had elected not to go to the 10NES route because they felt that a complete lockout solution was needless overkill. Their solution, the TMSS, was based on very simple principles of intellectual property law. A piece of code burned into the Genesis boot ROM would look for a header code that was supposed to be part of every Genesis program stored in cartridge format. If the header code contained certain unique characteristics, then it was a legitimately licensed Sega product. If the TMSS did not find what it sought, then it would refuse to boot up the system. If the system booted correctly, then the TMSS would display the phrase PRODUCED BY OR UNDER LICENSE FROM SEGA ENTERPRISES LTD. on the screen for a few seconds before running the program contained inside the cartridge. Both pieces of code, the one in the TMSS and the correct cartridge header code, were copyrighted Sega property. The TMSS also generated a trademark display every time it was activated, that being the Sega name itself. In essence, the TMSS was a double tripwire for anybody trying to produce unlicensed Genesis cartridges. If you made an unlicensed cartridge that activated the TMSS, then you were in violation of both copyright and trademark law. If you could figure out a way to get your game running without tripping the TMSS, then you were legally in the clear.

        Most of us know how that turned out - Accolade eventually won the right to continue to distribute their game cartridges. Sega went on to do the same kind of crap on the Dreamcast, but they weren't able to prevent clever programmers from putting a notice on the same screen that came up saying "licensed by sega" that says "no, it isn't, but this message has to be here".

        • Re:Trademark, what? (Score:5, Interesting)

          by R3d M3rcury (871886) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:31PM (#17316056) Journal

          [...] they weren't able to prevent clever programmers from putting a notice on the same screen that came up saying "licensed by sega" that says "no, it isn't, but this message has to be here".
          Sort of off-topic, but I always liked this one.

          Supposedly somewhere in the old IBM BIOS ROMs, there's a "Copyright 1981 IBM." Some programs, like IBM's, looked for this and would not run if it wasn't there. Now the cloners, of course, could not put this in. Their solution: Go four bytes in front of it and add "NOT ".

          I don't know if it's true or just an urban legend, but it's a funny concept.
          • by DrYak (748999) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @05:58PM (#17318366) Homepage
            I don't know if it's true or just an urban legend, but it's a funny concept.


            Logitech's DOS mouse driver MOUSE.COM (dumped from an actual copy I've here) :
            This is a LOGITECH mouse driver, but some software expect here the following string:*** This is Copyright 1983 Microsoft ***


            Also mentioned here by other /.ers :
            The Dreamcast boot code checks and runs only games that display "PRODUCED BY OR UNDER LICENSE FROM SEGA" in their Loader.
            Opensource environment like KallistiOS [allusion.net] feature a Loader that displays the required string on-sreen, and then adds an explanation that in fact, it's not under Sega's License, but that the string is required to the game to boot.

            So the trick isn't urban legend and is genuinly used to circumvent such string checks, although I don't know if the trick was also used by PC BIOS cloners [wikipedia.org]
      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @02:10PM (#17315056)
        "On the other hand, well . . . who gives a shit?"

        Well, for one, the end users do, when they bring in a .dwg file that is not "trusted" into AutoCAD and a dialog pops up with warnings that say the file format is not "trusted, unsafe, etc".

        Extending your GM analogy, say you install a non GM part in your GM car and get a blinking light on the dash to the effect of "Car may crash violently or explode through use on non-GM part." What are the results of that? The consumer is scared back into going to GM and GM only to buy the part.

        Also, for more analysis of the case, go here:
        http://worldcadaccess.typepad.com/blog/ [typepad.com]
      • Key Difference (Score:5, Interesting)

        by AmericanInKiev (453362) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @02:43PM (#17315514) Homepage
        Let's say the DMCA etc basically say that "breaking into a locked box" is unlawful, even if the lock is encryption etc...

        This case is far different, because no one is breaking into a locked box, What they are doing is creating a new box, which happens to use the same key.

        Take the key to your office. You could ask a locksmith to make a lock to fit your office Key - say to lock your bicycle and save the chaos of a thousand keys.

        You are not breaking into someone else's locked box.

        No on the other hand, if you do not own a key to this office, and you jam a screwdriver into the lock - that is a very different matter.

        The question is - do people have the right to make a lock so it works with a pre-existing key. The answer from the court had better be - apsofreakenlutely. The person who owns the information in an autocad file are not autodesk, but the engineer who designed the building, and that engineer has the unequivocal right to use their data anyway they choose, including opening it into a different program. The relinquishment of ownership of a significantly valuable work such as that would surely require more than a contract, it would require meaningful compensation. Unless Autodesk has paid for the services rendered by the author of a file, it has no argument to constrain the use of that document.

        The Autodesk format (DWG etc ) is a piece of crap anyway, and it would appear the company is the devil incarnate.

        AIK

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by a.d.trick (894813)
          This case is far different, because no one is breaking into a locked box, What they are doing is creating a new box, which happens to use the same key.

          That's why their trying to use Trademark law to attack these people. They're saying that in creating a new box that is openable by the key, you've voilated their trademark because the new box looks too much like their old one.

      • by volpe (58112) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @02:48PM (#17315570)
        The best analogy I can think of is GM saying you can only put 'genuine GM' parts in their cars.

        Actually, a better analogy is GM making their oil filters in the shape of the GM logo. If you make an oil filter that fits in a GM, you have to make it in the shape of their logo, thereby violating their trademark.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Eric Smith (4379) *

        The best analogy I can think of is GM saying you can only put 'genuine GM' parts in their cars.

        Actually, this suit is more analagous to GM saying that a third-party manufacturer can't stamp the phrase "Genuine GM" on their parts. I think most people would agree that it is reasonable for GM to have an interest in preventing that.

        It would become an issue if the GM car could somehow detect the "Genuine GM" stamp on the part, and refuse to run if the stamp is not present. I think this is what AutoCAD is

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Actually, this suit is more analagous to GM saying that a third-party manufacturer can't stamp the phrase "Genuine GM" on their parts. I think most people would agree that it is reasonable for GM to have an interest in preventing that

          Actually, this is more like saying that a third-party manufacturer can't stamp the words "compatible with General Motors cars" on the oil filters they want to sell. While GM might well have an interest in that (if, say, they themselves produce oil-filters), that's no reason

    • by Morgaine (4316) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:27PM (#17314504)
      AutoDesk can certainly make a lot of noise about other people using their trademarks (if they are), and courts might listen with some interest.

      But no way in hell can AutoDesk deny interoperability with their file formats. The precedents for interoperability as a protected activity are legion, spanning decades.

      And if such claims were ever to be allowed even once, it would open Pandora's Box bigtime. The ramifications for all of human industry (not just computing) would be utterly immense, and catastrophic.

      A huge amount of manufacturing rides piggyback on standards set by named brands, and really the relationship is symbiotic, although the big brands don't wish to acknowledge that. AutoDesk wishes to have a wholly tied customer base instead of being "merely" the leader in their manufacturing community. Such protectionism is very blinkered.

      Hopefully their claims will be denied. If not, this could be very bad.
      • I am not sure which planet you read Slashdot on, but on planet Earth what you are saying is either completely wrong, or you are not correctly verbalizing you argument. In deference to you extremely low /.ID# I am hoping that it is the latter.

        "But no way in hell can AutoDesk deny interoperability with their file formats."

        I have been using CADD for way longer then I would like to admit, but lets just say I started when CADD was invented/initially commercially available. Autodesk has always been the stinky 6
        • I'm confused; you replied to the GP's statment that "But no way in hell can AutoDesk deny interoperability with their file formats" with the following:

          I am not sure which planet you read Slashdot on, but on planet Earth what you are saying is either completely wrong, or you are not correctly verbalizing you argument. In deference to you extremely low /.ID# I am hoping that it is the latter.

          You went on to describe examples of ACCAD doing just this in practice. However, in the context of this thread, wh

    • by WebCowboy (196209) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:39PM (#17314688)
      including but not limited to the Autodesk watermark and/or TrustedDWG code, without Autodesk's authorization,

      That is the key statement in the claim. The code in the libraries that read and generate .dwg files are clean from a copyright standpoint but the libraries have the ability to watermark or digitally sign the file--it is the signature in the resulting file generated by the library that is what Autodesk has taken issue with and they have pulled the lawyers out of their legal cesspool..uhhh..I mean department...to block the use of their signatures. Precedent doesn't allow them to block competitors from using the .dwg format itself.

      The lawyers say that the watermarks and digital signatures are equivalent to a logo and that it is afforded protection under trademark law. The car analogy is pretty apt here: Imagine you want to rice-ify your 1989 Civic--you can get cheap third-pary knockoffs from any company--even those without any affiliation with Honda and those suppliers are legally allowed to make everything from spoilers-big-enough-to-use-as-the-tail-of-a-737 to neon-coloured-ignition-wires-and-matching-chromed- valve-cover-engine-bling that you can easily fit to your modest little DX for that pimpin' project.

      There is next to nothing Honda could do to prevent anyone from making and selling parts with matching bolt patterns, electrical connectors, etc. that interoperate with their cars. Believe me, automakers have tried a few times in the past without success to apply industrial design and patent law without success (and rightly so). What Honda CAN do (and probably should be able to do anyways) is prevent anyone from putting the Honda LOGO on their knockoff parts, or the phrase "Genuine Honda" or similar such markings as it misrepresents the source of the aftermarket parts and leads consumers into making wrong assumptions about the quality, source, warranty, etc. Which is why Honda really doesn't like those fake R stickers and has made some effort to stop them from being made. Of course, those fake Rs are easily produced and distributed do it is a really hard game of whack-a-mole, plus the fakers only have to alter the appearance of their own Rs slightly to get around trademark issues.

      Anyways, because of this I don't really have an issue with Autodesk protecting their trademarks--though I think that a digital signature is brushing the line of what constitutes a trademark. If all that is at issue is the idea that a user can open a DWG and look at its properties and it has a "generated by AutoCAD xxxx" property in there when it was NOT generated by AutoCAD then what's the big deal? I think it is probably best that programs that do greate .DWGs properly report what was used to create the file for support purposes anyways. After all, it has ALWAYS annoyed me that Microsoft has always had "mozilla" in their user agent string for all those years as its roots from the original spyglass software gradually withered and died.

      Where I WOULD have a problem is if Autodesk were to use this signature to prevent interoperability, which would in my mind constitute abuse of a monopoly position. If...at any point and in any way...the absence of a "generated by genuine AutoCAD" signature prevented the file from being FULLY usable in AutoCAD or prevented "genuine autocad" files from being fully used by 3rd party software...then it ceases to be a trademark and becomes an access control mechanism that limits interoperability. Though I imagine then they'd LOVE to pull a DMCA trick....oh well...THAT is the point where Autodesk will have truly moved into the dark side.
    • Re:Trademark, what? (Score:4, Informative)

      by kbaud (1001076) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @02:35PM (#17315402)
      Trademarks are a way to get around good limitations in patents (like the pesky fact that patents expire).

      All a monopoly has to do is claim that their technical design is so recognized by consumers that they claim a trademark on it. Then it doesn't matter if the patent expired. Sure, the USPTO claims to not allow trademarks on patentable ideas, but it happens. The USPTO is just too overworked. Companies know this and force trademarks through anyways. Then one day you find out that a particular idea or standard is completely inaccessible to you forever.

      Trademarks don't expire nor can they be revoked after they pass the 5yr no-contest period. They are much stronger than a patent and a common form of abuse now with big companies.

      Did you know for example that the cylinder shape is irrevocably trademarked for certain products?

      This probably sounds incredible to most people. Search the http://tess2.uspto.gov/bin/gate.exe?f=searchss&sta te=qdqb5u.1.1 [uspto.gov] for trademark #75501874 (I have not found a way to link directly to a record in their database).

      And this is just one of many examples. This and other reasons is why people are calling for IP reform.

      peter

  • Industry Standard? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bryansj (89051) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:21PM (#17313606)
    I've been using CAD programs (mainly CATIA) in my line of work for 10 years and haven't used AutoCAD once since college.

    To me AutoCAD is like MS Paint compared to Photoshop. Maybe other places use it more but they sure don't use it much in aerospace CAD.
    • by TERdON (862570) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:26PM (#17313674) Homepage
      CATIA isn't really suited for 2D CAD work (floorplans, early design sketches, electrical and other schemas, PCB construction etc). Neither is Solidworks, Pro/E or any of the other 3D CAD tools I've used. This is one of the areas where AutoCAD still shines (except of course, backward compability - with old files as well as old engineers!)
      • Microstation beats, or at least used to beat AutoCAD in 2D.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Hillgiant (916436)
          Blech. At least as late as Microstation 98, it was a button driven piece of trash. Our drafters needed two monitors. One for the drawing and one for the ocean of palettes required to do the drafting. Call me a luddite if you must, but a CLI/keyboard interface will always be faster for Drafting than a GUI/palette driven one. The tools need to change too fast to waste time zipping the mouse around the screen.
          • That's like saying DOS is better than Windows because the CLI is more efficient than the GUI. There's a lot more to both products than just the user interface paradigm.

    • by Karzz1 (306015) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:32PM (#17313746) Homepage
      "To me AutoCAD is like MS Paint compared to Photoshop. Maybe other places use it more but they sure don't use it much in aerospace CAD."

      Hence the lawsuit. This is an effort by a company to lock its customers into its product artificially rather than creating a product that competes on actual features/support etc... If you use AutoCAD and decide to move to another software, you either have to redraw all of your current drawings or do without them. This is identical to MS reasoning with regard to file formats; the only difference being that MS has to be very careful about who they sue due to anti-trust issues whereas AutoDesk has no such worries.
      • by mungtor (306258) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:39PM (#17313876)
        "If you use AutoCAD and decide to move to another software, you either have to redraw all of your current drawings or do without them."

        No, you don't. Most major CAD systems will import DWG files since they have paid the licensing fees to AutoDesk to include a utility to perform the import. It isn't always pretty, but the functionality exists.
        • by Karzz1 (306015)
          "It isn't always pretty, but the functionality exists."

          So it is pretty much as useful as importing macro-infested word docs into OpenOffice? If you have to redo parts of your drawing and re-proof it, how is that a whole lot different from just redrawing it? In other words, how valuable is your time and isn't this still an incentive to stay with AutoDesk rather than moving to the competition?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by mungtor (306258)
            In the instances I've seen, you don't have to redo parts of the drawing or re-proof it. AutoCad seems to use some reference points that don't render when displaying in AutoCad but do show up in an import. They also show up if you save a DWG as a DXF and then import the DXF. The "import" probably does exactly that rather than try to go from DWG to whatever native format your CAD system is using.
        • In many cases, I've found this shareware program to be an excellent, inexpensive way to get drawings converted into other formats:

          http://www.freefirestudio.com/cadconvert.htm [freefirestudio.com]
        • by Gaima (174551)
          There is always DXF.

          The last 6-7 years might have changed things though, and you'd still probably have to open and save all your existing documents.
        • by mrchaotica (681592) * on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @04:51PM (#17317206)
          No, you don't. Most major CAD systems will import DWG files since they have paid the licensing fees to AutoDesk to include a utility to perform the import.

          Do you understand that the issue here is that people shouldn't have to pay royalties to read a file format?

          Personally, I think DWG should go exactly the way of MS Office's formats: banned from government use because they're proprietary!

      • by bigpat (158134)
        This is identical to MS reasoning with regard to file formats; the only difference being that MS has to be very careful about who they sue due to anti-trust issues whereas AutoDesk has no such worries.

        Why shouldn't they be worried? What percentage of this market do they control?
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by cnelzie (451984)
      It's used by some lower tier autmotive suppliers. It's used rather exstensively in many smaller to maybe mid-sized architectural firms (At least from what I have seen of architectural firms.) It's also used rather extensively in the design of many consumer products, like grills, stoves and refridgerators.

          The "industry" that uses CAD software is rather wide and deep.
    • by rtaylor187 (694389) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:07PM (#17314238)
      Most of the posts here seem to be stating that AutoCAD isn't the "standard" because
      it isn't the leader in the arena of 3D design.

      AutoCAD is _not_ the standard for 3D design. I'm not sure it ever was...
      Autodesk competes in that arena with their Inventor product - but I don't think
      that they are anywhere near the market leader. It's a pretty fragmented market.

      However, I believe the AutoCAD _is_ the standard for 2D architectural drawing.
      This is the arena where architects (or, rather, the draftsman working for an architect)
      draw the 2D drawings. Buildings, landscapes, etc.
    • by rbanffy (584143)
      Just out of curiosity, what are CATIA's main competitors and how do they handle data transfer from one program to the other?
      • by Laur (673497)

        what are CATIA's main competitors

        Pro/E and Solidworks are some of the biggies.

        how do they handle data transfer from one program to the other?

        In a word: badly. The two primary formats for data exchange are STEP [wikipedia.org] and IGES [wikipedia.org], and they both suck pretty hard. They usually only import the solid or drawing primitives, and none of the parametric data or such that was used to define/create the solids in the first place. You lose tons of information, and if you ever want to modify the 3D models in the new program

  • by r_jensen11 (598210) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:22PM (#17313614)
    This doesn't even deserve publicity as there is no chance in hell that it's going to pass. Saying this will pass would be equivalent of Microsoft being able to quash OpenOffice.org and StarOffice's .doc import utilities.
    • by omeomi (675045)
      Saying this will pass would be equivalent of Microsoft being able to quash OpenOffice.org and StarOffice's .doc import utilities.

      Shhhh! Don't give them any ideas...
    • by DeepRedux (601768) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:34PM (#17313774)
      The judge hearing the case disagrees. He signed an order saying [aecnews.com]
      the Court finds that Audodesk has demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits.
      This wording was proposed by Audodesk's lawyers, but signed by the judge.
      • by dgatwood (11270)

        If Audiodesk does not lose this case on appeal, it will have a dramatic and devastating effect on software interoperability. The entire computing industry is fundamentally built upon interoperability and the ability to read files across software packages and hardware platforms. While much of this is done using interchange file formats, the ONLY reason that this is prevalent is that companies have learned over the years that attempting to lock their users into software through proprietary formats has prove

    • There was a recent discussion about this case, and the central point was NOT that the open source group was reverse engineering documents. It was about the open software's representation of itself as a "genuine" file using the AutoCAD name. The equivalent to a ODT file containing the terminology "Genuine Microsoft Word file, guaranteed to work". I have my issues with Autodesk, but they aren't necessarily the evil ones here.

      With the myraid tags and calls in the DWG format, any open source implementatio
      • by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:07PM (#17314228)

        There was a recent discussion about this case, and the central point was NOT that the open source group was reverse engineering documents. It was about the open software's representation of itself as a "genuine" file using the AutoCAD name. The equivalent to a ODT file containing the terminology "Genuine Microsoft Word file, guaranteed to work". I have my issues with Autodesk, but they aren't necessarily the evil ones here.

        Right, and that combined with their products only working with signed drawings means they're using this watermark as a ruse to try to monopolize their corner of the industry. This is basically what HP and Lexmark have tried to do, in which they've put code in their printers to check the manufacturer of the printhead. There's no reason for it technologically, it's only there for anticompetitive purposes. Same here, and the DMCA, as bad as it is, does say that using copyright as a ruse to prevent interoperability won't fly.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by winnabago (949419)
          their products only working with signed drawings
          Not true, at least yet. From EFF:

          it pops up a warning dialog stating that the file was not created by an app authorized by Autodesk and might therefore result in "stability issues." (Users can disable these warnings, but they are enabled by default.)

          So I can still do my work, open and save my files, regardless. I don't see why this a frivolous lawsuit. Trademarks have to be defended. I will agree with you in that the DMCA is probably not the approach

          • The only problem with this is that we have solid examples in the past of software checking for such codes and then executing code to NOT run.

            Dr Dos and Win 311 being one of the more famous examples. (If DR Dos, Fail).
  • by CheeseburgerBrown (553703) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:26PM (#17313672) Homepage Journal
    This behavior is consistent with monopolistic thinking: we own the market, so let's raise the barrier to entry and/or companion-software diversity by making our product harder to use.

    The thing is, you'd best be sure your monopoly is rock solid before attempting such a move, lest it bite you in the ass when your users find their workflow has a new kink in it.

    Interoperability is cool. All the happening kids are doing it. Software mongers who fail to understand this are doomed to wither and die, or rule us with a taste of rising bile in our throats (I'm looking at you, MS Office). Grudging and bitter acceptance is not equal to brand loyalty.

    We've been phasing AutoCAD out of our shop here because it won't play nice with others. I doubt we're the only ones.

    • MS Office may be a monopoly, but I'd rather deal with Microsoft any day over Autodesk.

      We used to have a CAD class at the college, but we had to cancel it due to the costs of AutoCAD. We could teach using another CAD offering, but since Autocad is still the de-facto industry standard, and the only CAD professor available knew only AutoCAD, it would be a disservice to the students to teach a CAD class without teaching AutoCAD. The upgrade from Autocad 2000 to their latest offering was something around $2000 p
    • This behavior is consistent with monopolistic thinking: we own the market, so let's raise the barrier to entry and/or companion-software diversity by making our product harder to use. The thing is, you'd best be sure your monopoly is rock solid before attempting such a move, lest it bite you in the ass when your users find their workflow has a new kink in it.

      In terms for familiar to the readership: "The more you tighten your grip, Autodesk, the more star systems will slip through your fingers."

  • by BoRegardless (721219) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:27PM (#17313684)
    I've been using CAD since the Mid 80s (paper before), and AutoDesk got the jump just because they were the only early serious 2D CAD player when Microsoft hit the street with that, what was it, CP/M derivative OS, called DOS or something.

    This is a new millenium and 2D is not gone, but it is dying fast. Somehow they, Autodesk, missed the point that we live and think in a 3D world.

    SolidWorks.com has about 500,000 users of their mid-range software and has trounced AutoDesk's various offerings, so AD is just trying to protect what little it has left in 2D. What a pity.

    By all rights, AD should have been a leader in low-mid 3D CAD, but they squandered their efforts, not the least of which involve cumbersome user interfaces. I think they needed someone like Andy Hertzfeld and others from Apple's early days to make their CAD interfaces far easier to learn and use.

    Good bye AD. I use us no more.
    Now History. Part of the lore.
    • by gregorio (520049)

      This is a new millenium and 2D is not gone, but it is dying fast. Somehow they, Autodesk, missed the point that we live and think in a 3D world.

      SolidWorks.com has about 500,000 users of their mid-range software and has trounced AutoDesk's various offerings, so AD is just trying to protect what little it has left in 2D. What a pity.

      Except that Autodesk has a lot of 3d products, including the sucessful Autodesk Inventor line, wich is superior than SolidWorks.

    • by addsalt (985163) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:14PM (#17314324)

      This is a new millenium and 2D is not gone, but it is dying fast.
      There are still plenty of applications (wiring schematics, HVAC) that don't transfer well into 3D and will continue to use 2D applications. Even in applications that are based around a 3D model still need a 2D interface for creating prints.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by marx (113442)
      Autodesk owns both Maya [autodesk.com] and 3DS Max [autodesk.com], so I think it's a bit too early to say "good bye Autodesk". Perhaps they're not dominating the 3D CAD segment, but in principle the difference between a general 3D modeler and a CAD program is marginal.
  • by RobertB-DC (622190) * on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:29PM (#17313722) Homepage Journal
    Looking at the Open Design folks site brings up this tidbit [opendesign.com]:
    The Open Design Alliance understands that Autodesk has, for approximately two years, been distributing application programs which include our copyrighted DGNdirect libraries, for reading and writing DGN V8 format files. Autodesk does not have, nor has it ever had, any license or right to use DGNdirect in its application programs. We believe that Autodesk, by its actions, is infringing our copyright.

    All Autodesk had to do was join the Open Design Alliance, and they could use the ODA libraries without restriction. Instead, they filed suit.

    Don't forget to read The Autodesk File [fourmilab.ch] for more insights into how the once-revered company became just another soulless money hole.
  • by rsmith (90057) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:29PM (#17313724) Homepage
    AutoCAD is by far the industry standard CAD tool for engineering drawings.

    Not in the mechanical engineering world. 3D packages like CATIA, Pro/Engineer and Unigraphics have long eclipsed it in the high-tech industry.

    It's still usefull for making quick sketches etc.

    For exporting drawings, dxf and especially pdf are much more important than the dwg format. For 3D data, IGES and STEP are most often used, especially because they're open standards.

  • Less litigation... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Fysiks Wurks (949375)
    ...more inovation please. AutoCAD is desperatley trying to hang onto past instead of leading the way with new inovative and intuitive CAD/3D software. They are no longer the only game in town. Sour grapes.
  • by DG (989) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:35PM (#17313804) Homepage Journal
    For those who have never done CAD:

    AutoCAD is a 2D drawing tool with functions optimized for the production of scale drawings. It is an extension of the old T-Square And Pencil technique into the computer; a sort of Adobe Illustrator tuned to drafting.

    It is very, very good at this, and I found it (given that I had a little old skool drafting experience) fairly easy to adapt to.

    But at its core, you're still projecting 3D objects into 2D or psudo 3D (orthometric projections) using the draftsman's brain as the projection device.

    Enter Solidworks.

    Solidworks is a parametric 3D modeling package. You create the object in 3D, and then the software generates your 2D drawings from it. No more construction lines. No more mismatched views.

    There have been 3D modelers before (VariCAD for Linux isn't bad) but Solidworks takes it a step farther - it remembers every step in the construction of an object, and every step is tunable. Where past 3D modelers used Boolean operations to construct their shapes - but then the shape was fixed - Solidworks allows you to change the parameters of every operation at any time. Punch a hole through an object, but then discover it is the wrong size? No problem - just select the hole in the object's construction tree, and change its size.

    And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

    It has revolutionized mechanical drawing, to the point where it is inconceivable that I'd ever use AutoCAD ever again. Solidworks is one of the few software packages I've ever used that just left me dumbfounded in amazement at how powerful, easy, and intuitive it is.

    And no, I don't work for them. :)

    DG
    • by GeckoX (259575)
      Yep, though they are different tools and each have valid uses. I believe that you can get your hands on AutoCAD for a LOT less money than SolidWorks...that puppy ain't cheap. If you don't need all the solid modeling capabilities of SolidWorks, there's really nothing wrong with AutoCAD.

      SolidWorks is an awesome package though. I've got a few friends in the automotive industry that basically get paid to play in solidworks all day. Yes, I said 'play'...most of them feel like they're being paid to play a video g
    • by Gaima (174551)
      I was doing 3D parametric modeling in RADAN like 8 years ago. It was so new at the time I was using it for about a month, then when we convinced the boss to get us some training I ended up teaching the trainer!
      However, I only used it for about a year before leaving the CAD game.
      The company next door were big AutoCAD people (NetWare too), and they were doing stuff in 3D with it.
  • While this is clearly not as simple as a format-lockout (as the article's title would suggest), there is a lot of precedent AGAINST AutoCAD. So far as I am aware, no company has EVER succeeded in blocking other people from reverse engineering their file format. Where this deviates is that AutoCAD has extended the file format to include a system of checks and balances. Does that could as a lock out? Can people still use DWG as a common 2D / 3D CAD format exchange but be flagged as "unofficial?" Does this hu
    • Re:Format War (Score:5, Informative)

      by chill (34294) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:13PM (#17314310) Journal
      So far as I am aware, no company has EVER succeeded in blocking other people from reverse engineering their file format.

      Enter the DMCA, stage right-wing. AutoDESK added basic encryption to the file format starting with AutoCAD 2004. Now, instead of just reverse engineering the protocol, you would have to decrypt it as well. This is now, in the U.S., against the law except for certain conditions. This one, interoperability, may well be one of the conditions, but that will be up to a judge.

      And file formats are THE key. This is why Microsoft doesn't provide the full specs on .doc, .xls, .ppt, Project or other file formats. This is why AutoDESK is fighting so hard to keep .DWG closed. Switching to another program, including training your entire user base, is child's play compared to making sure that mountain of existing files you have can still be read and used.

      "Function A is under a different menu in OOo Writer than MS Word" and "This function doesn't seem to exist in OOo Calc" are trivial compared to "I can't read this document" and "My formulas don't work any more".

      Lock those customers in tight enough, and they'll not only put up with getting screwed, they'll fight for your right to screw them as hard as you want.
      • by webrunner (108849)
        they aren't suing under DMCA in this case though, they're suing under trademark law.

        Essentially I think the idea is that there's an Autodesk trademark in genuine autocad files, and creating a file with that trademark isn't allowed.

        I could be wrong, but I'm thinking of it like this: Every document is signed at the end "Sincerely, AutoCad". If you make a document and don't sign it "Sincerely, Autocad" it's not a genuine autocad file.

        If you DO sign it "Sincerely, Autocad", you're pretending you're AutoCad, an
    • by ronanbear (924575)
      If AutoCAD succeed in this case then they will be able to ensure that drawings which are both unsigned by AutoCAD and use features from newer versions of AutoCAD (and hence files from a rival) don't render properly in AutoCAD.

      If AutoCAD treats it's own documents differently from those of other vendors just because they have been digitally signed then that's an anti-competitive practise.

      IANAL but the DMCA covers breaking encryption not adding it to your own documents. i.e. you can make your own region encode
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:36PM (#17313812)
    When you can't compete in the open marketplace any longer, bring in the lawyers. I'd have to say this is a rather tacit admission that other CAD tools are catching up, and at much better prices.
  • I think AutoCAD should be just as worried about competitors suing them for keeping their format closed only to maintain their huge market share.
  • Still use Autocad anymore? The sheer lockin was one of the reasons our school and a few others moved away from it to Vectorworks.
  • Looking at the linked site, I see a link entitled "Open Design Alliance statement on the use of its technology by Autodesk". Following it gives me a page that basically says that Autodesk used their DGNdirect code without authorization, even after being notified.

  • by symbolic (11752) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:46PM (#17313964)
    I believe, that of all things, proprietary document formats should be illegal. If I endeavor to purchase a product to create something for myself, my business, or even someone else, it should not the vendor's choice as to how I must access that document at a later point in time. If I decide that it is no longer feasible to continue using the product (due to licensing, technical, or other considerations), I should be free to access my data with any other software of my choosing. The problem with proprietary formats is that they impose what I see as form ownership by proxy, whereby the owner of the software used to create the document has a sufficient degree of control over the documents themselves.
    • by howlinmonkey (548055) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:58PM (#17314910)

      This is THE major issue with allowing vendors to control the format of the data. If they don't want to publish a spec - fine (although I might be in favor of requiring that as well). But we cannot allow corps to tell us what we can do with OUR data, wherever it may originate. Once we create the data, it is ours, and we should be allowed to do format conversions, turn it into graffiti, or print it on paper and burn it in a bonfire.

      This case should open the eyes of the judiciary and our legislators to see the mess they have created with the overlapping spider web of laws and legal precedent. It may even be time to go back to the drawing board with so called "Intellectual Property", to examine the underlying assumptions, and the negative effect it has had on the operation of a free market, and on consumers.

  • by aapold (753705) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @12:46PM (#17313970) Homepage Journal
    This building you guys got us workin on here, ain't designed by no trusted autodesk product? You can't trust those other designed projects, sometimes things just go wrong on them, the crane pulls something too far and then BOOM! So its like this, we don't move one finger unless it was designed by 100% genuine autodesk products.
  • Oh, hell no! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by myxiplx (906307)
    I hope to god Autodesk loose this case. Their DWG / DWF strategy is a complete and utter shambles. We use AutoCAD because there are tons of plug-ins for our industry, it makes it a very good tool for our drawing office.

    Unfortunately, while AutoCAD itself works fine on our network, most of their more recent tools do not. It's a minor point of them not supporting folder redirection... Attempts to point Autodesk at Microsoft's developer guidelines have so far fallen on deaf ears, and I've been complaining
  • It may be that Autodesk has some new version of DWG which is closed, but older versions have been open for many years, as well as DXF. Google on the words autocad compatible [google.com], and you'll see it.

    IntelliCAD [autodsys.com], the most prominent AutoCAD-compatible code base, is still being worked on, and there are new versions of it which are very low in cost, and at least one which is donation-ware. There are quite a large number of companies developing this code-base now. I'm certain that other products are easier to us
  • by purplelocust (944662) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:23PM (#17314444)
    Autodesk was a market leader and a real Silicon Valley 80s-90s wonder. One of the great things that came out of it, indirectly, was the book "The Hacker and the Ants" by Rudy Rucker [sjsu.edu] which had some obvious inspiration from the time Rucker spent at Autodesk. The CEO at that time John Walker [fourmilab.ch] is a remarkable guy. As a bunch of people have already pointed out, they are long past market relevance (except for legacy lockin issues) so this is sad, but they were at one time quite the acme of geekdom.
  • Shit! We'll have to compete... what do we do?

    innovate?

    No, too time consuming.. I got it, SHUT EM DOWN!

    -GiH

  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @01:33PM (#17314580) Journal
    It's a trick which has been tried many times before -- make your software not work with other software unless that other software contains your trademark. It usually doesn't work; courts have ruled that if you use your trademark in a functional way like that, you can't use trademark protection. Thus video cards which contained strings like "Some code expects 'IBM' here" (because the BIOS was checking for 'IBM' in a particular location), and similar nonsense.

    Of course, throw enough lawyers at enough courts, particularly if your opponents aren't well-funded, and eventually you're likely to get your view accepted.

  • I used AutoCAD R11 (circa 1991) a little and was stunned at how primitive the interface was. In R11 the main screen is a menu of about 9 options that must be selected by typing the number followed by the enter key. To load a file, you might type "3" and "Enter" to get a list of files, page thru that list more style, write down the name of the file wanted (in case your short term memory wasn't quite up to it), go back to the main menu, select "1", then type in the name of the file to load.

    I thought such

    • by Jim Hall (2985)

      And here we are years later, and where's a decent GPL CAD program, especailly one with a decent interface? It's not the recently open sourced BRL-CAD -- the interface on that is horrible too.

      Just the other day, I was looking for a free (preferably GPL or otherwise suitably open) CAD program that I could use to do a design of my basement. We're doing work there, and I wanted to have something to create a simple overhead 2-D diagram of how things will look. I eventually ended up doing a drawing in OpenO

  • RealDWG (Score:3, Informative)

    by lanthar (962279) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:25PM (#17316010)
    As someone who's been writing AutoCAD plugins using their API software many years... All the TrustedDWG thing does is basically tell the person opening a dwg in autocad that the file was last saved by a trusted dwg product (i.e. one using AutoDesk's software, or one of their own APIs). Consider it like having the right to slap the Windows XP Certified logo on your software. That's all it does. There's no encryption, no DRM stuff here... it just prints a string of text in the AutoCAD command window when you open the file. Is it right for some other company to claim to be AutoDesk? No. But why does Autodesk bother, you ask? The main concern for AutoCAD here is not that the OpenDesign (formerly OpenDWG) Alliance is reverse engineering their format. AutoDesk is partnered with several companies that use the OpenDesign API, and AutoDesk is well aware of them using it. Opening a dwg generated from the OpenDesign API, however, was marking files as being a Genuine AutoDesk product file, which guarantees that AutoDesk programs were the last programs to have saved the file. Aside from the point that people have been asking AutoDesk to open up the DWG format legally for years, there are some considerations here. Consider the issue of the OpenDesign API having a bug that corrupted the DWG files, in a subtle way that eventually caused problems in AutoDesk programs. AutoDesk shouldn't have to help companies with support agreements to solve it... they can just throw up their hands and say, sorry, but your file was not last saved by us... your other program corrupted this file, talk to them. Really it's only right. Would you expect MS to help you find the cause of formatting loss or file corruption on a word document that you had saved with OpenOffice? What's wrong with trademarking your files? It's not like they are saying it is illegal to use them any way you want to, nor that the OpenDesign Alliance must stop releasing the API... they just don't want another company claiming to be generating genuine AutoDesk files. Also worth noting here is that AutoDesk sells their own API to access dwg files without a copy of AutoCAD or AutoDesk Map installed... This API is currently called RealDWG (formerly known as DwgUnplugged). This is sold at a one time fee to a company with the right to make small applications or viewers for reselling. The fee for the license to make your own dwg format manipulating program is somewhere around $5000 last I heard... for a license to make your own software from the ground up, using their dwg access API and resell it. One last point... According to that site, the OpenDesign people have already released an update that no longer violates the AutoDesk trademark by claiming that their software was an AutoDesk product.
  • CAD and AutoDesk (Score:4, Interesting)

    by DAtkins (768457) on Wednesday December 20, 2006 @03:41PM (#17316170) Homepage
    I'd just like to rant for awhile about AutoDesk. I hope no one minds...

    I've been a draftsman/designer for 12 years now. In the consulting engineering industry (for commercial, residential, & industrial building design) it is the defacto program. Even companies that standardise with other CAD programs, they have a copy of AutoCAD somewhere just to work with everyone else.

    I started out on AutoCAD r10 running on DOS, and I'm currently using AutoCAD Arch Desktop 2004. I've been involved with the program from the level of an individual draftsman, to a CAD manager working with over 100 other CAD operators. I can honestly say, that while AutoCAD's interface (keyboard based) is one of the fastest interfaces around - the file format has always been AutoDesk's most problematic issue.

    In AutoCAD 2004, the only file format it will open are the 2000 and 2004 DWG file format. An absolutely useless number of file formats for a company who has had a NEW FORMAT EVERY FREAKING VERSION. What's more, the only other format that AutoCAD opens, is the old DXF format (thank goodness for that at least).

    AutoDesk has a horrible habit of pretending that it is the only CAD software in the world. In addition to it's own short term memory about previous DWG formats (thanks for making my old CAD files unopenable assholes), it has no clue how to open a Microstation file, or any other of the other competing formats out there.

    Yes, I know you can download a drawing file converter for old ACAD files, but this should have been included in ACAD itself - and the file converter still doesn't open DGN files.

    Microstation on the other hand, has changed it's file format ONCE in 10 versions. Not only will it open up the old file format, it also opens up EVERY AutoCAD format as well. I currently use Microstation to convert my old DWG's to new DWG's because MStation does a better job of it than Autodesk's downloadable converter. Hell, the free Bentley DWF-style reader opens up every format as well - something that AutoDesk's viewer can't even do for it's own native format.

    DWG files have a long history of becomeing corrupted, often to the point of being unable to be recovered. Do you have a corrupted DWG file that AutoCAD can't recover? Open it in Microstation, and it will recover the file for you instead.

    The fact is, AutoCAD is the dominant CAD software for two reasons only. #1, the interface is faster for old-school users (though I must say, a properly set-up system with a trained MStation user is only about 5% slower). #2, since AutoCAD 2004 doesn't open up R14 ACAD files - and can't save down to R14 either - people with R14 are forced to upgrade against their wishes. As if there has been a good reason to upgrade besides mouse wheel support since R13...

    Basically, I hate AutoDesk even though I use their product. They do not care a wit about their customers, the industry, or even producing a reasonable product. Even today, 1/4 of the time I save a drawing I LOSE DATA. Nothing like finishing up a design, clicking save to go home, and losing 2 hours of work in the process. I'm sure that AutoDesk would love to say that their new TrueDWG initiative will save me from these worries, but I've had this problem with DWG's (made 100% by me, in AutoCAD) since I first started using the product.

    Instead of working with customers to create a truly open file format and competing based upon a superior interface and support - they instead choose compete through vendor lock-in. It's the same as if MS produced a new version of Office every 2 years that didn't open up any other format on earth including the previous version. Oh wait, that's what they do too.. they can both kiss my butt.

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