Autodesk Files Lawsuit Against Assimilate

Google alerts and several readers have let us know that Autodesk has filed a lawsuit in Canadian courts alleging that Assilimate is using intellectual property related to 5D’s Cyborg product, now owned by Autodesk (see justia.com). Autodesk purchased the IP related to Cyborg and three other 5D products in 2002 during liquidation proceedings in the UK after 5D went out of business. Much of the specific violation noted in the lawsuit revolves around UI elements, but the filing states that these details suggest “portions of the underlying Cyborg source code and/or the structure, sequence, and organiztion of that code were copied as well.”

We contacted both Autodesk and Assimilate for comments regarding the lawsuit. Autodesk responded that they are seeking to protect their intellectual property and it is not their policy to comment on pending litigation. Assimilate replied as well and will be providing a comment shortly. We’ll post that information here when we receive it.

Click through for some interesting information gleaned from the court filing as well as a download link to the actual filing….


The lawsuit contains some interesting information, though obviously it is written from the Autodesk point of view and not Assimilate. What is taken here is from that filing and from one perspective. The lawsuit notes several UI elements which Autodesk alleges violate their IP, including ones that have already been integrated into some of their products:

“In situations where another system would typically pop up an ‘OK or Cancel” dialog box in response to a user’s click on a button, in Cyborg the button itself transforms to display a red, center-ustified ‘OK’ and green, center-justified ‘Esc’ graphic on which the user can click. The cursor then changes into a lightning bolt-shaped X if above the ‘OK’ portion of the button. Scrach does the same thing, with the same button and the same cursor change. This ‘OK/Esc’ button has specifically been incorporated in the autodesk Flame and Autodesk Lustre programs, as well as another program called Autodesk Smoke.”

“In Cyborg, when a user makes a circular motion over some of the controls with the cursor, that motion acts as an invisible dial that increases (in a clockwise motion) or decreases (in a counterclockwise motion) a value…..This circular cursor motion and effect have specifically been incorporated into the Autodesk Toxik program.”

Other examples noted include functionality now found in the Toxik gate UI and the general similarity between Cyborg and Scratch.

When Autodesk first pursued these issues with Assimilate in 2004, they noted that several former 5D employees were working for the new company and requested that they affirm that they “did not use any of their intellectual property from Cyborg in their development of Scratch.” Assimilate responded that they were “committed to the protection of its own intellectual property, and respecting that of others in the industry.”

Then, earlier this year, Autodesk further pursed this issue after noting that many users found Scratch to be quite similar to Cyborg. Several online forums are quoted in the filing, including some forum posts here at fxguide. This is where further disagreement began as to who owned what IP or not (see p 9 – 11 in the filing), and it appears as though the issue escalated to the point at which a lawsuit was filed.

You can download the complaint via this link. As we pointed out before, this document was filed by Autodesk and while it does contain exhibits from Assimilate, it is obviously written from the Autodesk point of view. Hopefully, we’ll soon have comments from Assimilate.

31 thoughts on “Autodesk Files Lawsuit Against Assimilate”

  1. Doesn’t Autodesk have anything better to do that sue Assimilate for an OK/ESC button? Or is it that Lustre isn’t selling as well as Scratch? Well, if you can’t win the software battle you can always try the courts i guess.

  2. RED Cine uses the same ‘Ok or Cancel’ functionality for some options, I wonder if they will get dragged into this one too.

  3. Avid|DS and Quantel both use the ‘invisible dial’ idea. Have done for years. I’d be surprised if that came from 5D.

  4. The complaint is a very interesting read. Have always thought Scratch looked a lot like Cyborg and the way Assimilate keeps changing it’s tune, It sure looks like they are hiding something.

  5. Although i don’t really care about Scratch, my RED workflow is going to be hit hard if there will be an issue with Redcine too.

  6. No they dont have anything better to do – Autodesk is trying to protect their massive price premium by stomping on a smaller competitor with a product that is more affordable and in many ways better than their own.

  7. well, maybe the reason scratch is so affordable is because they didnt write the code themselves in the first place.

  8. In the worst case, I would guess that the assimilate developers just re-implemented the UI elements from Cyborg. I doubt they actually copied code. This means they “did not use any of their intellectual property from Cyborg in their development of Scratch,” they just remembered how they did it and did it again. If the lightning bolt cursors are pixel-for-pixel the same, then maybe there’d be a case for cut-and-pasting.

    But let’s assume that Assimilate stole these ideas and perhaps even copied code. So what? Does Autodesk really think that their products are superior because of their ok/cancel UI concept? It’d be one thing if Assimilate stole a tracker or keyer, but small UI touches? That’s super lame.

  9. We can argue all day long about the specifics but you must admit Scratch and RedCine are strikingly similar to the Autodesk Systems UI

  10. Well…how long do you want to go back in time ?
    The whole Cyborg UI was based on the old Quantel Henry a lot more than on a Flame or Smoke.
    Autodesk was scared to death when the “Flame-killer” was hot shit and they bought it to do away with it and protect their business.
    Seems Lustre is really doing bad or they wouldn’t care.
    Red Cine is Scratch ultra lite…thats why its so simliar.
    And yes…I am happy Scratch looks and feels a lot like an Editbox and not like Speedgrade or something.

  11. Autodesk “scared” of Cyborg? Cyborg made very little inroads before 5D went bust, marketed very poorly, it was a niche product from a small company.

    Autodesk bought it after 5D went bust, it is standard pratice for a company to fire sale its assest after liquidation. Autodesk didn’t buy it because they wanted to “protect” their business but because they put in the highest bid! It could have easily been Quantel, Apple or Adobe, but we don’t know who also bid on the Cyborg assests.

    Would people’s opinions of the situation be different if it were a different company? Probably.

  12. RedCine isso similar because it’s same code. It was part of assimilate / red deal. red will give them codec (or exclusive right to use it) assimilate gave red ui for redcine.

    And, IMHO, scratch is a toy, maybe even worse than color, while lustre is real app.
    Is it worth it’s price that’s different question, but to compare those two is like comparing combustion and smoke. Yes both will do the job, result might even look same, but amount of effort put into work is wastly different.

  13. Hi Tom… we have several customers who have chosen SCRATCH over Lustre after thorough evaluation of both products. If you’d like to talk about how much of a “toy” it is with any of these facilities, please feel free to contact me and I’ll connect you. : )

    Lustre has also won out several times! It’s a competitive marketplace…

  14. Regarding Comment 14.

    Excuse me, but I don’t think it’s that simple. The Cyborg was definetily not as established as flame or henry at that time, but it was evolvingand gaining a loyal userbase. How else can one explain that there are still cyborgs in good use around the planet.

    Also there are very different stories told about how Autodesk actually got that extremely low (IMHO) bid on the cyborg. According to the lawsuit they just paid something like 310.000 Pounds for the assets.

  15. “well, maybe the reason scratch is so affordable is because they didnt write the code themselves in the first place.”

    Hum?

    No my dear friend they not only wrote Scratch, they wrote Scratch, Cyborg, and a good part of Lustre and Toxik (indirectly) by themselves. Autodesk is the one using their code.

    Besides Autodesk bought Cyborg assets not it’s developers, so they should just shut up, scratch their asses to escape from wonderland to come up with better prodcuts with prices based in the reality that make sense and actually worth the prodcut it self.

    My two cents,
    cheers.

  16. “We can argue all day long about the specifics but you must admit Scratch and RedCine are strikingly similar to the Autodesk Systems UI”

    That’s because the GUI designer contracted by both companies is the same (and that since Cyborg times). This sort of law suites are a huge stupidity. Is just like when Adobe went all over Macromedia for using Tabs in their products, how plain stupid that was?

    In the end Macromedia managed to come up with a even better concept that is now seen in the CS line of products.

    In Autodesk versus Assimilate is even worse since Autodesk is going all over Assimilate for using something that wasn’t Autodesk’s creation in the first place.

  17. Hi Lucas,

    Please note ‘IMHO’ in my comment. I’ve been on several demos of Scratch, some public, some private, and I must say that I simply don’t like it.
    For example: why, in the name of God, You had to change names for all usual stuff???? Why layer is called ‘scaffold’, why instead of delete (or del) You have Bin, when bin have completely different meaning in post production world.
    I’m used to work with curves a lot and there is just ‘RGB curves’, no hue curves, no sat curves, no suppresion curves …
    And I, also, dont like workflow in general.
    Maybe I’m too used to Discreet tools and workflow, but that’s why i put ‘IMHO’ on posts like this.
    And, as I said before, both tools will have job done, but I would prefer to do it on Lustre than on Scratch.
    As for market volume, Lustre IS a bit too expensive. That is where I agree with You. Maybe that is why it’s market share isn’t bigger.

  18. “And, IMHO, scratch is a toy, maybe even worse than color, while lustre is real app.”

    What a toy by way!

    I much rather be a kid that lives in a world where you can work in full res in real time all the time then live in Autodesk fantasy realm where every pseudo real time feature comes bundled with a process or proxy button.

    And don’t forget that 5D has a pretty good share of it’s work in Lustre, so your argument is pretty much empty.

  19. Hey Tom… let’s take this offlist. I do like spirited discussion. : )
    lucas (at) assimilateinc (dot) com.

  20. Did you guys even read the complaint? It really does not matter how much they paid for the code the fact is they own it and the IP. The owners are obviously hiding something and if it looks similar on the outside you gotta believe it similar on the inside.

  21. What do you think will be the ramifications of Autodesk wining the case? There has to be an important reason (other than the UI copyrights) for them to do such a move so maybe interesting things will happen even if they loose. Either outcome will leave a mark i think…

  22. slightly off topic, but has the makes a circular motion for playback feature been integrated into any of Autodesks other systems -IE Smoke/Flame…?

  23. Pingback: fxguide quick takes » Assimilate Responds to Autodesk Lawsuit

  24. Re: #13
    You could go even furthur back than that. I’m pretty sure I remember Discreet getting sued by Quantel (circa 1990 or so) because Flame looked so much like a Henry and believe it or not was much less expensive!
    As far as calling Scratch a “toy”? I’d take that to mean like some people might call a Ferrari a toy, or a 4WD off-roader a toy. Scratch can haul a lot of freight mighty fast. I guess it depends on who’s doing the drivin’…

  25. Assimilate imo is a company that spends far too much time dissing competitors products and grossly overpriced for what they offer. It would not surprise me in the least if any or all of the allegations are proven true. It bothers me greatly when they continuously make the patently false statement that they have privileged access to redcode. At ibc they pushed a whole bunch of hogwash about being the “only” company to have a “special” relationship with red. Perhaps till now it has been the case but the sdk renders that not true anymore. Lustre is a very very fine program and will open r3d files natively in the near future. As far as redcine goes it is horrendously crippled by assimilate and only a stop-gap solution till other solutions catch up to the always envelope-pushing guys at red.

  26. What’s funny is that 4 years ago nobody believed in the RED revolution…but Assimilate did. And this creates a nice relationship beetween 2 small companies.
    Now that the RED is up and running, everybody wants to be part of it without having taken any risk and believe that buying a SDK is enough 😉
    So let’s talk about today and stop bitching Assimilate. These guys are a f…g small company and did an amazing job. Scratch is not perfect but has been improving quiet fast and actually plays r3d files directly, which is not the case with the SDK. Ask Quantel or Autodesk or Digital Vision to show you the native raw image (I did): They can’t.

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