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Texas software company accuses Ford of stealing software design

Businesses depend greatly on innovation in order to be competitive in today's marketplace. This is true of all industries. Companies are rightly solicitous, then, about protecting their intellectual property. The primary means by which this is done is to patent, copyright, and trademark innovative ideas.

As important as it is to obtain appropriate protection for intellectual property, it is equally as important to enforce these rights when they are threatened. Intellectual property disputes are common in the business world. Earlier this month, for example, a Texas software company by the name of Versata filed a lawsuit against Ford Motor Company, alleging that the manufacturer developed its own version of software design to expedite product development and ensure compatibility between the parts used in vehicles.

Versata had apparently provided Ford access to the software and multiple updates over a number of years. According to the company, Ford developed the proprietary software by reverse-engineering and even used some of the same code. The company filed the suit after receiving notice that Ford had filed a lawsuit in Michigan asking a court to declare that its version of the software legal did not interfere with Versata's intellectual property rights.

It will likely be some time before the suit goes to trial, but the case is an important one since the contract under which the software was used constitutes about one third of Versata's business with Ford. Depending on how the suit turns out, it could have a potentially negative impact on business relations between the companies.

Companies, of course, should always work with an experienced legal team to manage their intellectual property interests and to help enforce those rights when they are threatened by competitors.

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