In Part 3 of my interview with Arnold van der Weide, we discussed the settlement between Autodesk and the ODA regarding the DWG trademark. I found it quite interesting that the ODA stepped aside for Autodesk to go ahead and trademark DWG. I am not sure if you remember the incident involving the “RasterDWG” trademark where Autodesk basically bought the trademark from softelec (see “RasterDWG“) for “good and valuable consideration”. Recently SolidWorks settled with Autodesk and surrendered its DWG related trademarks. And now the ODA has gone ahead and done the same.
This has literally paved the way for Autodesk to secure a trademark on DWG, something which many (including me) thought was a crazy idea not too long ago. But seeing these companies fold like they did has led me to believe that Autodesk will one day, possibly in the near future, get a trademark on DWG. For those who still doubt that Autodesk will be able to trademark DWG, I would like to repeat something that I heard one of the COFES 2010 keynote speakers say:
“The USPTO has become a registration office. They register any and everything and then leave it up to the courts to decide”.
The reason I give importance to this statement is because it came from Omid Moghadam, someone who owns 32 patents. So I guess he knows the USPTO way better than most of us do.
Now I have very little doubt that Autodesk will be able to register DWG as a trademark, especially since the only resistance is the person at the USPTO who is examining their trademark application. What then? Well, people will not be able to use DWG in their company name, product branding and messaging, unless it it strictly adheres to Autodesk’s trademark guidelines. So maybe I will need to change my product from “DWG Export for SolidWorks” to “DWG File Export for SolidWorks”, which will probably increase my page rank in Google. All the AutoCAD clones would have to stop referring to their product as “DWG CAD Software” and maybe say the same thing in a different way.
So is that it? Is this what this whole fuss was all about? Or does Autodesk have other plans in mind on how to leverage the DWG trademark when it gets it. I guess time will tell.
In their defense, it is easy to imagine why softelec, SolidWorks and the ODA did what they did. I mean, who wants to be drawn into a length and expensive court battle with a company like Autodesk? SolidWorks is getting rid of the “DWG” in their product names and the ODA has rebranded just about everything that they have every developed. It was interesting to know that ODA even initiated the settlement with Autodesk which goes to show how eager they were to get Autodesk off their back.
Here is something worth considering. The Autodesk trademark guidelines web page reads:
Autodesk has never precluded, and does not seek to preclude others from either using .dwg as a file extension or from making software that is compatible with the Autodesk DWG file format.
So is this statement an admission of defeat? I mean, by making this statement, Autodesk is basically giving people full permission to clone its software and write libraries that reverse engineer the DWG file format. How on earth is someone supposed to make a software that is “compatible with the Autodesk DWG file format” unless the DWG file format is first reverse engineered?
I did a little snooping around at archive.org and found that till as late as 2008, the above statement was not part of the DWG usage guidelines. I am not exactly sure when it was added, but it seems to me that this particular statement may be a result of the settlement with either SolidWorks or the ODA. I don’t think Autodesk would add this statement out of the goodness of its heart.
So exactly who won here? Did anyone win in the first place? When (not if) Autodesk gets a trademark on DWG, will it change anything? But I guess the most important question is: was all this money well spent?