• United States



by Paul Kerstein

Microsoft Files Eight Antipiracy Lawsuits

Sep 20, 20053 mins
CSO and CISOData and Information Security

Microsoft Corp. Monday filed eight antipiracy lawsuits in five statesagainst companies that allegedly are distributing counterfeit versionsof its software or copies that infringe on Microsoft trademarks orcopyrights.

The software giant filed suits against BWT Industry Technology ServiceInc. dba Computer Max Co. in Arizona; Data Day USA Inc., and Winvtech Solutions Inc. in California; GlobalComputing Inc. in Illinois; Ion Technologies in Minnesota; andCompustar Co. and Chips & Techs in New York.

Microsoft identified the companies’ alleged illegal activity throughseveral channels, including the new Windows Genuine Advantage programas well as customers reporting suspected pirated Microsoft software,said Mary Jo Schrade, a senior attorney at Microsoft.

Microsoft launched the Windows Genuine Advantage 1.0 program in Julyrequiring customers to validate that they are running legitimate copiesof Windows before they can use Microsoft’s various software downloadservices. The program immediately came under fire from customers forbugs that, among other things, enabled users to easily bypass thevalidation process or identify legitimate copies of software as pirated.

David Lazar, director for Genuine Windows at Microsoft, said Microsofthas addressed initial problems with the program’s validation softwareand is continuing to address issues as they crop up.

Customers or partners can use Microsoft’s antipiracy hot line,1-800-RU-LEGIT, to report on companies that could be distributingpirated software, Schrade said. Microsoft also has a “secret shopper”program in which it sends people out to purchase the company’s softwarefrom various distributors around the country to ensure they are sellinglegitimate copies, she said.

All of the companies named in Monday’s suits had been notifiedpreviously that they were distributing copies of software that arecounterfeit or infringe on copyrights or trademarks Microsoft owns,Schrade said. Microsoft typically sends a “cease and desist” letter tocompanies first and helps them understand what they are doing wrong andtake steps to fix it, she said.

“We take the first approach of education and then enforcement isbasically the last resort,” she said. “If we can prove that [notifyingthe companies] hasn’t worked we will sue them.”

Microsoft has sued thousands of companies and has a high success rateof eventually making sure the companies stop distributing pirated orcopyright-infringing Microsoft products, Schrade said. However, thenumber of suits has decreased in recent years as Microsoft has steppedup its efforts to identify those responsible for distributingcounterfeit copies of its software.

“We have seen that number decrease because our education efforts have proven successful in a number of cases,” she said.

One segment of the Microsoft ecosystem that is especially affected bysoftware piracy is system builders that include the Microsoft Windowsoperating system and other software on custom PCs they offer tocustomers, said John Ball, general manager for the U.S. system builderbusiness at Microsoft.

System builders have been among the primary catalysts for Microsoft’s increased antipiracy efforts, he said.

“When they go to market and try to sell their computer systems, it’smore expensive then [the systems from] the companies using piratedsoftware, so it makes it harder for them to compete,” Ball said. “Theycame back and said, ’You really have to help us.’”

In addition to the other methods the company uses for identifyingpirated software in the marketplace, system builders also sendMicrosoft leads when they come across competitors selling counterfeitcopies, he added.

By Elizabeth Montalbano – IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)