Developer caught in Malay melee

Developer caught in Malay melee

A local software developer is warning resellers to be wary of inferior versions of his software being copied by rogue channel identities in Malaysia.

Dan Drum, managing director of Australian asset management software developer Hardcat, said a disgruntled reseller in Malaysia has stolen his intellectual property and begun selling an inferior version of it under a new name.

Drum warned resellers against selling the copied product, sold under the name "Assist".

The drama began last month when Drum was asked by one of his Malaysian resellers, Tripro Technology, to help pitch the Hardcat product in a $250,000 tender at a large Malaysian bank, Bumiputra Commerce.

The bank was impressed with Hardcat, but noted that it had seen a similar software package in the tender under the name "Assist". The bank queried the management team at Assist over the similarities between the products, but their questions were not answered.

Drum and Hardcat resellers went to work on investigating why the product was so similar. They discovered that no company by the name Assist had an account filed with the Malaysian register of companies. They also discovered that the Assist product was claimed to have been designed and written by one Encik Roslan, in conjunction with Assist's first client, another bank, Simpnanan Nasional. This bank had purchased a licensed copy of Hardcat software in 1994.

Hardcat's records also showed that in 1996, Drum had been approached by one Roslan Affandi, the managing director of one of its Malaysian resellers, Excel Success. He had been buying Hardcat through its Malaysian distributor at the time, Triangle Hi Tech. Affandi claimed he was the reseller responsible for most of the sales ordered through Triangle Hi Tech, and he wished to cut out the distributor and deal with Hardcat directly. Hardcat refused.

In 1998, Hardcat acknowledged that Triangle Hi Tech was performing poorly, and approached Affandi at Excel Success to offer a distribution agreement. There was no reply.

Drum has since discovered that Encik Roslan and Roslan Affandi are the same person.

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together, Drum now believes that Roslan became agitated over not being able to buy the product direct from Hardcat and decided to start selling it on his own terms. Possibly in conjunction with a person or persons at Bank Simpnanan Nasional, the software may have been "reverse engineered" screen by screen and rebranded as "Assist". It would also explain why Hardcat sales at Triangle Hi Tech's had dried up.

Drum said the current Hardcat tender at Bumiputra Commerce is now under threat after Roslan approached the bank's management, claiming his product had not been evaluated fairly.

Drum feels it would be impossible to fight such abuse of his intellectual property in a Malaysian court, particularly since the "Assist" product has been granted IT awards in Malaysia.

Drum is confident the Assist product, which he claims to be "full of holes", will have no direction and will become irrelevant as it is based on software written several years ago. He believes the best way for him to fight the problem is to further enhance the Hardcat product and to ensure resellers know which of the products is legitimate.

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