In the universe of software-copyright enforcement programs, Autodesk’s may be the most active and vigorous. All businesses – even those not running Autodesk software – should take steps early and regularly to identify and eliminate any software-compliance gaps associated with Autodesk and other software installations. It is common for businesses owners to be surprised by the presence of software on their company computers that not only was unauthorized by company management but also unused for company business purposes. Regular, internal software audits can help to avoid those surprises, and in the case of Autodesk software, product serial numbers represent a valuable tool to help determine whether a software installation is licensed.

All properly licensed Autodesk software is associated with an eleven-digit, numeric serial number, in the following format: nnn-nnnnnnnn. During the software installation and registration process, the serial number is recorded by Autodesk and is associated with registration information submitted by the installing user. Unlike similar software identifiers used by other publishers (like key numbers used by Microsoft) Autodesk serial numbers – and associated user-registration information – often can be used to validate reported installations as being properly licensed to an audited businesses. Therefore, with the serial numbers of their Autodesk installations in hand, business owners often can start to get an idea of their audit-related exposure before receiving any audit demands.

It typically is possible to access the serial number for an installation by booting up the software, clicking on the “Help” menu, and then clicking the “About” option. Those numbers typically display as one of the following three options:

  • Zero-only serial numbers (e.g., 000-00000000), or absent serial numbers, usually reflect the installation of Autodesk software under a limited-time trial license. The software usually becomes inoperable at the end of the trial period, but the Autodesk license terms require the removal of the software after the expiration date. If outside their trial periods, these installations should be removed and, if appropriate, replaced with full-term, licensed software.
  • Patterned or repeating-digit serial numbers (e.g., 123-45677654 or 444-44444444 or 454-54545454) usually are determined by Autodesk to reflect the installation of unlicensed software. This kind of installation should be destroyed immediately unless the business can demonstrate ownership of a valid license with dated purchase documentation.
  • Unique, non-repeating serial numbers (e.g., 350-36478235) are most likely to represent correctly licensed software. However, it is possible that the user information associated with those numbers was not entered correctly during the registration process. It also is possible that the numbers have been determined by Autodesk to be associated with pirated products. Therefore, even if a company’s Autodesk software installations display serial numbers in this format, it is important to review those numbers with available purchasing records to help ensure that unauthorized software has not been installed.

Taking the important step of identifying and inventorying Autodesk serial numbers in this way can help to mitigate exposure associated with Autodesk software audits. In the event of an audit, knowledgeable counsel can help to guide a business through the audit process and can help to determine whether and how the company should expect to use its serial numbers during the audit process.