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Autodesk settles antitrust charge

The Federal Trade commission says the leading CAD company is now free to complete its acquisition of Softdesk.

Federal Trade Commission officials today announced an antitrust settlement with Autodesk (ADSK) over its acquisition of Softdesk and its computer-aided design (CAD) software.

Autodesk, a major player in CAD software, will now be free to complete its $90 million stock-swap merger now that Softdesk's CAD program is no longer part of the deal.

The FTC said the purchase of Softdesk's IntelliCADD software would have created an uncompetitive environment.

Autodesk, the dominant provider of Windows-based CAD engines, accounts for 70 percent of the installed base of about 1.4 million users, according the FTC statement. Softdesk's IntelliCADD, had it been brought to market, would have competed against Autodesk's AutoCAD and offered features that other CAD engines do not, the FTC complaint said.

As part of the agreement, Autodesk will be barred from acquiring IntelliCADD as part of its Softdesk acquisition, or any company that owns or controls that technology, without giving prior notice to the FTC for the next 10 years, said Howard Morse, an agency spokesman.

Softdesk, as part of the agreement, has transferred all rights and title of IntelliCADD to Boomerang Technology, which in turn has sold the rights to Visio.

"The divestiture to Boomerang occurred because the FTC wanted more information on the Softdesk acquisition and looked at IntelliCADD as potentially being anticompetitive," Morse said.

Autodesk agreed to divest the CAD technology without a formal request from the FTC, Morse said.

Morse noted that to date, the FTC and Department of Justice have challenged only a handful of mergers with hardware and software companies.

"There may be numerous mergers in this industry, but only a handful are thought to lessen competition," he said.