Important Facts In The Autodesk vs Vernor Case

Today the United State Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the decision of a lower court in the Autodesk vs Vernor case. In summary Timothy Vernor purchased old copies of AutoCAD 14 from an Autodesk customer called Cardwell Thomas & Accosiates (CTA) and sold them on eBay. The court ruled that CTA was not an owner of the copies of AutoCAD 14 because Autodesk licensed the software to them and did not sell it. Hence, they could not sell it to Vernor, who in turn, could not sell it to someone else on eBay.

I have my own views on whether software should be licensed or sold. But that’s not what I’m going to get into here. I’d like to point out some facts of this case in particular and the reasons why I was overjoyed at the courts decision to overturn the verdict of the lower court.

Here is a bit of history about this case. In 1999 Autodesk accused CTA of unauthorized use of its software and reached a settlement by which it licensed ten copies of AutoCAD 14 to CTA. Later CTA upgraded to AutoCAD 2000. They paid $495 to upgrade each copy instead of the $3750 for a new copy. According the license agreement that CTA agreed to, they were supposed to destroy the ten copies of AutoCAD 14, which they did not do. Instead they sold four of them to Vernor at an office sale with handwritten activation codes necessary to use the software. Vernor then proceeded to sell two of these copies on eBay for around $600 each, thereby making a profit of about $100 on each of them.

If this is not software piracy then I don’t know what is. And by the way, Vernor still has two copies of AutoCAD 14 that he hopes to sell on eBay one day.