Autodesk joins Open Design Alliance

Former ligitants chart new course for DWG interoperability.

Autodesk joins Open Design Alliance, signaling a new chapter in their relationship.

Autodesk joins ODA (Open Design Alliance), signalling the two’s desire to move beyond the DWG ownsership dispute. Image courtesy of ODA

Ten years ago, Autodesk and Open Design Alliance (ODA) were often on the opposite sides of the legal battles over the DWG file format.

Last week, Autodesk announced it's joining ODA, signaling a dramatic shift in policy and strategy. 

Amy Bunszel, Autodesk's Senior VP of Design and Creation Products, broke the news in a blog post. She wrote, “Responding to some of the constructive criticism we’ve received from our architecture customers, we promised to do a better job of listening to our customers, engage in an open dialogue, and do better where we’ve fallen short. One of the areas highlighted was progress with our products on international data exchange standards, specifically the need to better support IFC (International Foundation Classes) ... With Autodesk’s membership in the ODA, we will accelerate our progress toward supporting this need.”

Neil Peterson, ODA's President, said, “ODA welcomes Autodesk as its newest member. Our tools will allow Autodesk to provide long-term support for IFC, and we look forward to working closely together to ensure the highest standards of quality are maintained.”

For design software users who were caught in the crossfire of the two organizations' previous wrangle over file formats, the latest development is a welcome surprise.

Battling Over DWG

Autodesk has always been highly protective of DGW, the widely used 2D/3D CAD data format used by its flagship software titles. The member-supported nonprofit ODA was formed in 1998 under the name OpenDWG Alliance, with the aim to offer an alternative set of tools for authoring and editing DWG files. Many of Autodesk's rivals, such as Dassault Systèmes, rely on ODA tools for interoperability with Autodesk software.

In 2006, Autodesk fired the first shot by suing ODA for alleged trademark infringement. In 2009, when Autodesk sued rival SolidWorks (Dassault Systèmes) over the use of the term DWG, ODA was once again entangled in the suit as a witness. 

In 2010, Autodesk and ODA settled their dispute under confidential terms. To clarify its position, Autodesk wrote in the settlement announcement that “Autodesk does not prevent others from either using .dwg as a file extension or from making software that is compatible with the Autodesk DWG file format. However, certain uses of DWG as a trademark are not permissible.” 

You Can Thank IFC

For authoring and editing IFC-compliant files, many 3D modeling software developers—especially for Architecture, Construction, and Engineering (AEC)—turn to ODA's kits. Autodesk joining the same circle ensures smoother file transfer between Autodesk's products and non-Autodesk packages. 

“We know our customers use a variety of tools to achieve their goals. Our additional investments in adherence to IFC will address bottlenecks for data exchange between Autodesk and non-Autodesk products,” wrote Bunszel. 

You can read more about Autodesk and the recent ODA conference here.

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Kenneth Wong

Kenneth Wong is Digital Engineering’s resident blogger and senior editor. Email him at [email protected] or share your thoughts on this article at

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