Autodesk Software Audit Licensing Disputes

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An Autodesk licensing audit can be an intimidating process for organizations that do not know what to expect and have not prepared adequately for the procedure.

Autodesk lawyers can use aggressive tactics towards suspected non-compliance with licensing agreements and an audit can be an intimidating process.

The first step is to understand what Autodesk is looking for and then to seek experienced legal counsel to work on a strategy to mitigate any potential negative consequences for your business.

What is an Autodesk Audit?

An Autodesk audit is requested when the vendor suspects that the number of installations of Autodesk software (AutoCAD, Revit, etc.) on your network exceeds the number of licenses that your business holds.

You will receive a letter from the law firm representing Autodesk or the Business Software Alliance (BSA), of which it is a member, informing you of the audit.

This letter will explain that the law firm (usually Donahue Fitzgerald LLP) has received information that indicates that you have more installations of Autodesk software than you are licensed to use. 

Accordingly, they will demand your firm’s cooperation in disclosing the number of Autodesk installations on your network and the number of Autodesk licenses that you own, including serial numbers. 

The letter will go on to describe the various penalties associated with copyright infringement and it may threaten you with civil litigation.

What is the Autodesk Audit Process?

The audit is normally conducted “voluntarily” by the organization for which it is requested.

However, it is best to seek legal counsel at this time to avoid compromising your legal position and being forced into an unnecessarily high settlement.

Once you receive the letter informing you of the audit, the lawyers at Scott & Scott LLP will provide you with full visibility into the audit process and advise you on the decisions you will need to make throughout. 

We will first need to conduct an extensive review and inventory of your organization’s hardware infrastructure and software deployments.  

This can be a complex process but at the end of it, we will be in a position to prepare a financial exposure analysis to help develop the best strategy for your organization.

We will prepare an action items list identifying the steps needed to ensure full compliance with all BSA member products. 

During this process, confidentiality is assured by the attorney-client and work-product privileges.

This is important for your defense, as employee-conducted and IT-vendor audits are not confidential and may compromise your position if litigation is pursued against you.

BSA will likely make a settlement demand if you cooperate by producing the results of the audit.

We will vigorously negotiate the monetary and non-monetary terms of a proposed settlement on your behalf. 

If an amicable resolution is not possible, our lawyers are experienced software litigators familiar with federal court practice. We will aggressively litigate your case in a courtroom.

The actual settlement can take many months from notice of the audit to completion. With the assistance of experienced lawyers, the process can be reduced to a few months or less.

Should I use the Autodesk Inventory Advisor (AIA) Tool?

If Autodesk requests an audit, you will be advised to use their Autodesk Inventory Advisor (AIA) tool and to provide the company with access to the deployment data.

However, there have been instances where the AIA output is inaccurate. For instance, numerous installations of one of Autodesk’s CAD solutions have been identified on networks where only free viewer programs were deployed.

While Autodesk can demand an inspection of your Autodesk product deployments according to their standard End User License Agreement (EULA), it is important to understand that you do not need to deploy the AIA tool to enable this inspection.

How to prepare for an Autodesk Audit

If you receive a letter informing you about an Autodesk audit, do not panic. 

You should treat the matter seriously but do not try to respond to Autodesk with a phone call or letter, and do not delete any software or hide evidence.

Locate receipts and evidence of the software you have purchased from Autodesk and call our lawyers.

How to respond to an Autodesk Software Audit Compliance Letter

Before responding to a request for an Autodesk audit, it is important to understand your legal rights and to protect your legal position.

Failure to take legal advice can be very expensive: many companies who have responded to Autodesk before conducting a thorough investigation or seeking legal counsel have received an unexpectedly high settlement offer from Autodesk.  

The vendor will usually demand a settlement payment calculated as follows:

The MSRP of the allegedly unauthorized products installed on your network multiplied by an arbitrary multiplier.

This multiplier is simply a figure that Autodesk claims is an approximation of damages. It claims that this is the penalty for using unauthorized software and is assessed in lieu of proceeding with formal judicial resolution. 

However, this practice is far from generally accepted and can be contested – as can many of the claims by Autodesk.

In summary, before you respond to Autodesk letter, ensure that you:

  • Work with experienced counsel to thoroughly investigate the software usage on your computers
  • Protect yourself by requesting an agreement from Autodesk regarding the use of the materials that will be produced in the audit
  • Negotiate a resolution geared toward ensuring future compliance

How can we help with an Autodesk Licensing Audit?

The lawyers at Scott & Scott LLP understand the Autodesk audit process and can represent you if you are facing an audit. 

We have helped many organizations in the U.S. successfully challenge the claims made by Autodesk, negotiating mutually beneficial settlements confidentially and without financial penalties.

Typically, these cases have taken between two and six months – rarely any longer.

Alternatively, if you have not yet received an audit notice but have not conducted an internal analysis of your company’s software usage, you might consider doing this immediately in order to catch potentially illegitimate software and avoid copyright infringement penalties and legal fees.

We provide a free 30-minute consultation if you would like to prepare your organization for an engagement or consider the best audit defense strategy in the event of an Autodesk licensing dispute.

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