Adobe Faces Antitrust|Monopoly Class Action

     SAN JOSE (CN) – Adobe Systems bought Macromedia to remove its competitor FreeHand from the professional graphic illustration market, and to force users to switch to Adobe’s more expensive, and inferior, Illustrator software, graphic designers say in a federal antitrust class action.

     The class claims Adobe “has engaged in unlawful, willful acquisition and maintenance of monopoly power in the market for professional vector graphic illustration software.”
     Vector graphic illustration software uses mathematical formulas plotted by the graphic designer.
     Lead plaintiff Free FreeHand, a nonprofit with more than 5,500 members, says its “members believe FreeHand is a superior product to Illustrator.”
     Free FreeHand’s members include workers in fine arts, screen printing, animation, cartoons, catalog and newspaper design, advertising, scientific and technical design, type and font design, architecture, furniture and textile design, and other areas.
     It says it’s been forced to sue to ensure that design professionals have access to “the ongoing maintenance and updating that is needed for the FreeHand software to work properly on the computer hardware and operating systems of today and in the future.”
     The class claims Adobe acquired FreeHand in 2005 when it bought Macromedia, “effectively removing FreeHand from the market by failing to update the program.” Since then, Adobe has “significantly raised the price of Illustrator,” and in 2007 Adobe announced it would stop developing FreeHand, the class claims.
     The class claims Adobe encourages, and forces, customers to buy “the higher priced Illustrator software product due to the lack of support and development of FreeHand and its increasing advance to total obsolescence.”
     Adobe has published guides on how to make the switch from FreeHand to Illustrator. Adobe refused to release the FreeHand code, and if customers switch from FreeHand to Illustrator, they will lose the use of their FreeHand-created designs, the illustrators say.
     In 2004, before Adobe acquired FreeHand, Illustrator cost $399. The price increased to $499 in 2005, and to $599 in 2008, when Adobe released a new version of Illustrator, the class says.
     Instead of developing new features for Illustrator, Adobe has “simply been incorporating existing FreeHand features into Illustrator, instead of innovating and developing features not already developed for FreeHand,” including “perspective tool, paste/draw inside, blob brush, and multiple pages,” the complaint states.
     The class claims that Adobe has 100 percent market share of the Macintosh submarket because it owns FreeHand and Illustrator, the only competing products in the Macintosh market, and has about 80 percent market share of the Windows market, as it owns two of the three competing products.
     Adobe’s bundling of Illustrator with other Adobe products, including Photoshop, Dreamweaver and InDesign, “constitutes a significant entry barrier by limiting the ability of potential rival professional software manufacturers to enter the market without a full array of graphics software,” the complaint states.
     Plaintiffs seek class certification, declaratory judgment and treble damages.
     The class is represented by Jared Beck and Elizabeth Lee Beck with Beck & Lee Business Trial Lawyers of Miami.

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