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Sticky fingers and stolen code

Sticky fingers and stolen code

Six people have been sentenced for the theft by Avanti employees of code from Cadence Design Systems (People vs Avanti). The stiffest sentence was one year in the San Mateo County jail.

The problem was discovered in 1995 by a Mr. Markhan when he saw a demo of Avanti’s ArcCell and noticed a misalignment that he had recently corrected in the Cadence product, Symbad. In defense, Avanti’s lawyer argued that much of the code, including, presumably, the misalignment, came from public domain software.

In response, the prosecutor showed a picture of a tape labeled “Backup Wuu tape 00 02/09/91.” The Cadence witness said that Wuu means Steven Wuu, a co-founder of Avanti, and “00” means you downloaded a complete folder. The tape contained about 30,000 lines of code from Cadence’s Symbad database software. The code contained words that were consistently misspelled in Cadence’s Symbad and in the data base code found in the suspect products.

On the Avanti defense side, Chi Ping Hsu, a member of Avanti’s technology staff, says that when he was at UC Berkley he laid out the building blocks for all of the products being discussed in this case. He says that he developed most of the code, and posted this code on the Berkley Building Block Layout (BBL) system in the early 1990’s. This has been a shot in the arm of the Avanti defense.

The current argument is over the amount of restitution. Avanti is arguing for a settlement of $16 million and Cadence is arguing for a settlement of $700 million. The judge is still hearing the case on damages and is expected to rule soon.

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