Microsoft Software Piracy Crackdown Continues

Microsoft again went on the attack against software pirates, filing four lawsuits against companies it said sold illegal copies of its software to consumers, officials announced Wednesday.

The lawsuits name five companies — East Outlet, Super Supplier, #9 Software, CEO Microsystems and Wiston Group — that were allegedly selling illegal copies of Microsoft products or selling the Certificate of Authenticity (COA) labels that go with Microsoft products.

All are charged with violating copyright and trademark laws; #9 Software was additionally charged with violating the Anti-Counterfeiting Amendments Act for selling COA labels without the attendant software.

Josh Talbert, a sales representative at CEO Microsystems in Irvine, Calif., would not comment on the lawsuit, saying it was the first time he had heard of the allegations. The company’s owner and CEO, he said, is currently on vacation in Hawaii.

The companies, based in California and Virginia, are the latest in a widespread campaign mounted by the Redmond, Wash., software giant to curb the sale of counterfeit and illicit copies of its software.

“Microsoft has a covenant with our legitimate resellers and to our customers,” Mary Jo Schrade, Microsoft senior attorney, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to do what we can to educate our channel partners and consumers about the risk associated with selling, buying or using pirated and counterfeit items. As a last resort, we’ll take legal action to help ensure that software identified as Microsoft software actually is genuine, legitimate software.”

Schrade said all five companies were given the chance to repent, after Microsoft lawyers sent cease-and-desist letters. It was only after the companies continued selling the software and COA labels that Microsoft went ahead with the lawsuits.

In April, Microsoft filed a round of lawsuits against seven computer resellers for copyright and trademark violations. The eighth was its first suit against a company selling COA labels illegally.

Despite the lawsuits, much of Microsoft’s attention towards curbing software piracy is focused on education, not litigation. According to officials, the company has a campaign in place, through targeted print ads and direct-mail advertisements, to provide resellers with information on how to work with reputable dealers as well as the enforcement actions that are taking place.

Microsoft has also established a toll-free number (800-RU-LEGIT) for consumer complaints and for agents who regularly buy Microsoft software from random software suppliers to check its authenticity.

The software industry’s actions seem to be having only a slight effect on software piracy overall. Last month, the Business Software Alliance (BSA) announced the results of a study by research firm IDC, which showed the losses due to piracy increased nearly 14 percent to $33 billion in 2004.

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