Shares of Avant! Corp. (Nasdaq: AVNT) rose 61 percent Thursday, after a federal judge cleared the company of copyright claims before 1994 in its trade-secret dispute with rival Cadence Design Systems (NYSE: CDN).
Shares in the maker of software for chip designers peaked at 25 1/4 Thursday, above their 52-week high set in January. The January slide accelerated after the company appointed a new "finance team," adding to the company's troubles and legal problems. That caused Hambrecht & Quist downgraded the stock to "market perform" from "buy" after the company's financial chief resigned. It had just upgraded the stock from to "buy" from "market perform" the previous week
Cadence accused Avant (pronounced ah VAHN tee) of producing its Aquarius software with stolen trade secrets and has requested that Avant's customers return or destroy their copies of the software. Cadence can still pursue its case for actions taken after 1994, but can't collect punitive damages, according to Wednesday's ruling by United States District Court Judge Ronald M. Whyte.
"The court's ruling eliminates Cadence's trade secret claim against Avant! in the upcoming trial. With its trade secret claim gone for this trial, Cadence is no longer eligible to receive punitive damages even if it prevails on its remaining copyright claim," said David Stanley, Avant!'s general counsel in a press release.
Avant! no longer sells the ArcCell or Aquarius products at issue in the trial. The ruling has no impact on Apollo, Avant!'s current place-and-route tool.
Of the four analysts covering Avant! according to Zacks Investment Research, three rated it a "hold," and one a "moderate buy." None of them were available for immediate comment.