Adobe barred from distributing software

A U.S. federal district court judge filed a preliminary injunction order against Adobe Systems Inc. Tuesday, barring it from distributing its InDesign page layout software amid allegations of copyright infringement.

The injunction will affect Adobe's InDesign 1.5 client, as well as its Adobe Design Collection, a software kit that includes InDesign, a company spokeswoman said. However, the company will continue to distribute the software outside of the U.S. because the court does not have jurisdiction elsewhere, the spokeswoman said.

The copyright infringement lawsuit was lodged against the software company two months ago by Pasadena, California-based Trio Systems L.L.C., a PC software component maker. Trio Systems alleged that Adobe incorporated the company's C-Index database engine into its InDesign software even though it had signed a contract agreeing not to use C-Index in any open programs.

C-Index is a database engine that coordinates the operations of reading and writing data from a computer storage drive, such as a hard drive, according to the plaintiff's motion. The motion also states that C-Index provides "core functionality" for InDesign.

Judge William J. Rea of the United States District Court for the Central District of California filed the order Tuesday enjoining Adobe and any of its affiliates, distributors and representatives from distributing any products containing C-Index or any derivative of the software.

Adobe is disappointed with the order and disagrees with the findings of the court, the company said in a statement adding that it will "of course" comply with the court.

Trio's claims are largely moot because the release of InDesign 2.0 is expected during the first quarter of 2002, the Adobe statement said. That version does not include any Trio software.

Trio Systems attorney Henry Gradstein of Los Angeles-based Gradstein, Luskin & Van Dalsem labeled Adobe's behavior as "outrageous and arrogant," however, claiming that the software maker knowingly violated the terms of its licenses for C-Index.

Adobe signed a license with Trio agreeing not to use the company's database engine software, or any derivative of it, in any "open programs," or programs with a programmable interface, Gradstein said. C-Index is licensed on a per-programmer basis, and the terms of the license are meant to prevent programmers at large from developing software that relies on C-Index without first obtaining a license from Trio.

Adobe originally defended itself by claiming that the employee who signed the license with Trio wasn't authorized to do so, Gradstein said. After dropping that claim, Adobe then said that someone at Trio had told Adobe that the license didn't mean what it said, according to the attorney. Adobe then countersued Trio.

Trio is seeking damages that could, on the high end, run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, based on Trio's US$650 per-programmer license fee and the number of programmers that have had access to C-Index via InDesign.

The copyright infringement charges against Adobe are an ironic turn, Gradstein said, given that the software maker is an outspoken defender of intellectual property rights.

"Just go to Adobe's Web site," he said. "Under software piracy, it says 'get legal, stay legal'. It sure is ironic that they themselves don't own up to these accusations."

Adobe was involved in a high-profile push against copyright infringement earlier this year when it initiated the investigation of Russian programmer Dmitry Sklyarov, who was subsequently jailed for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Sklyarov was arrested after he presented information on how to decrypt Adobe's eBook Reader format e-books at the Def Con conference in Las Vegas in mid-July.

The case has become a lightening rod for debate surrounding copyright protection law.

Now, Adobe is facing the remedies of its own crusade. Trio's next step is to look into adding the major distributor's of InDesign to its case, as well as investigating whether InDesign 2.0 is based on a derivative of C-Index, according to Gradstein.

"We have established the merits of the case and now it's just a question of how much (the company gets in damages)," Gradstein said.

The case is expected to go to trial sometime next year.

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