Charges against directors of a former Microsoft reseller for selling counterfeit software have been thrown out of court by a judge.
Hampshire-based reseller Protocol Solutions, which went into receivership in February 2001, supplied bespoke software based on Microsoft Office 97 to the Special Branch and other constabularies between June and December 1999.
The directors at the company, Stephen Heagren, Geoffrey Skinner and Jacqueline Smith, were accused of supplying customers with pirated software, and charged under Section 1 of the Trades Description Act 1968.
But last week at Blackfriars Crown Court in London, the judge stayed the prosecution on the ground that it was not in the public interest to convict them.
The decision prompted Microsoft to repeat its calls for resellers to ensure that they buy software from authorised dealers. There was no suggestion that Protocol deliberately sold counterfeit software.
Caroline Smith, of the compliance group at Microsoft UK, declined to comment on the case or its outcome, but said: "We want to protect our resellers that sell genuine products. If you buy from authorised distributors there is no risk of illegal products."
Microsoft's authorised distributors in the UK are Computer 2000, Ingram Micro, Ideal Hardware, Gem, Actebis and Entatech.
But Alex Tatham, vice president for software at Ideal, pointed out that there are unauthorised distributors selling Microsoft software legitimately.
"There are unauthorised [dealers] selling legitimate software because we sell it to them and they resell it," he said.
"But the only way that resellers can be sure it's legal is if they get it from an authorised distributor.
"Resellers should be careful because there is a lot of money at stake and they could end up in jail."
Separately, Ideal has become Microsoft's top selling UK authorised distributor after the success of its online licensing tool License Desk on the Internet.
Tatham revealed the secret of Ideal's success. "The system is simple to use and it reaches into Microsoft's own system," he said.
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