A Silicon Valley company and its executives have agreed to pay around $44m in fines to end 10 years of denial in perhaps the region's most infamous trade secrets case.
Avant!, which makes chip design software, has been under legal scrutiny since it was formed in 1991 by employees who jumped ship from market leader Cadence Design Systems.
Despite the fact that Cadence has always claimed that Avant! was founded on stolen trade secrets, the company has been able to prosper and build up a business that will have revenues in the region of $400m in fiscal 2001.
Until Tuesday, the four founders, who previously worked for Cadence, and a number of colleagues denied any wrongdoing.
However, as the jury was being selected for the long-delayed trial, the individuals and the company did an about-face and all pleaded 'no contest' to the charges. This plea is basically an admission of guilt which abbreviates the hearing.
Gerald Hsu, Avant!'s founder, president and chief executive, entered the plea to charges of conspiracy to misappropriate trade secrets, failure to return stolen property and securities fraud. He will pay a $2.7m fine but won't go to prison.
Charges against one defendant were dismissed. The remaining four primary defendants were all fined a total of more than $5m and could face prison sentences after entering no contest pleas to charges similar to Hsu's. A decision on sentencing will be made by the judge at a later date.
Avant! also agreed to pay $8.3m in fines against a second group of executives. The company said it pleaded no contest to similar charges and agreed to pay $27m in fines. In addition, Avant! placed $10m in escrow to cover any restitution costs it might be ordered to pay.
Although the company has not sold software based on the stolen database code since 1998, Santa Clara deputy district attorney Julius Finkelstein recently told a grand jury: "Avant!'s entire existence is a fraud."
The company's troubles are far from over. It faces civil actions brought by Cadence, which reckons the theft cost it at least $200m in lost sales.
IBM and Technical University of Munich team demonstrate how Shor's algorithm, which can't be cracked by conventional computers, can be solved quickly with quantum computing
Hubble Space Telescope finds superflares from young red dwarfs could strip away planetary atmosphere
Younger stars are 100 to 1,000 times more energetic than when they're older
Two of the big four supermarkets will use the system to control sales of restricted products
PUBG news and updates: November's Update #23 to bring new Skorpion pistol and changes to blue zone visibility
Genuinely useful side-arm coming to PUBG in Update #23