SANTA CRUZ, Calif. Claming copyright infringement against its ThreadX applications programming interface (API), Express Logic Inc. is seeking an injunction against further sales of Green Hills' micro-Velosity RTOS.
Express Logic is seeking binding arbitration in hopes of securing the injunction against Green Hills Software Inc. (Santa Barbara, Calif.).
The micro-Velosity API is a "thinly veiled copy" of the ThreadX API, alleged John Carbone, vice president of marketing at Express Logic. He said that service calls and parameters in the documented micro-Velosity API are nearly identical to those in ThreadX. Express Logic also issued a statement listing what it claimed were examples of the alleged similarities.
"We felt there was an issue of proprietary intellectual property rights that we just have to protect," Carbone said. "The [micro-Velosity] API is strikingly familiar to ThreadX in a number of areas, to an extent that appears greater than that allowed by law."
"They've leveled all sorts of ridiculous allegations," said Dan O'Dowd, founder and CEO of Green Hills Software. "It makes no sense."
O'Dowd said that it's common practice in the RTOS industry to copy a competitor's API, and that Express Logic has done so itself to sell "evacuation kits" for operating systems such as pSOS and VxWorks. "It's okay to completely copy somebody else's interface an identical copy, not just something that's similar," said O'Dowd. "It's been done many times by everyone in this industry, including Express Logic."
And in this case, said O'Dowd, Green Hills did not directly copy the ThreadX API. "There are many real-time operating systems and they all have similar APIs," he noted.
Rather than filing a lawsuit, Express Logic is taking its case before the American Arbitration Association, as is provided for in the reseller agreement between Green Hills and Express Logic. Green Hills resells ThreadX, even though its more recent Velosity and micro-Velosity operating systems compete with ThreadX.
One advantage, said Carbone, is that Express Logic expects a quicker hearing that a court proceeding. "We're seeking a preliminary injunction immediately that will prevent Green Hills from further marketing and distribution of micro-Velosity," he said. "That will stop the bleeding and allow us to sort out what's going on."
He added that Express Logic expects that an arbitrator will hear the company's appeal "in a matter of weeks."
Express Logic's complaint also includes unfair business practices and breach of contract. Since micro-Velosity was introduced earlier this year, Carbone said, customers have had difficulty getting Green Hills to talk to them about ThreadX, because the company has been pushing micro-Velosity.
Carbone said, however, that Express Logic expects the resale agreement to continue. He added that Express Logic is currently doing less than 20 percent of its business through Green Hills.
The resale agreement allowed Green Hills to gain knowledge of ThreadX, Carbone said. "They've had access to just about any information they asked for, including multiple copies of the source code," he said. Further, he noted, the ThreadX API is not confidential and is described in the user guide. He said Express Logic is not aware of confidential information that's been misused.
O'Dowd said that Express Logic and Green Hills discussed terminating the resale agreement last year, and set a target date of March 31, 2006. For this reason, he said, Green Hills developed micro-Velosity. Express Logic then backed away from the March 31 date, he said. "They say we ambushed them," O'Dowd said. "I can't understand why they're surprised that we developed a product."
O'Dowd said he didn't know if the resale agreement will continue. "We were happy selling [ThreadX], and we sold a bunch recently," he said. "It's up to them how we proceed. They issued a press release without even calling us, and they didn't have to do that."
Micro-Velosity was introduced in April as an RTOS for resource-constrained embedded devices. The operating system has a ROM footprint as small as 1,600 bytes, RAM footprint as small as 1,000 bytes and service call times as low as 30 cycles, according to Green Hills.
If the arbitrator rules in Express Logic's favor, Carbone said, it will "work with micro-Velosity customers to move over to ThreadX so they don't get caught by inadvertently using a product they shouldn't have been able to have. We want to look after the interests of customers."