Microsoft today announced that it is filing four lawsuits against companies in Virginia and California for alleged distribution of counterfeit and/or illicit software and software components.
The software giant said that the "allegedly illegal or questionable actions" of four companies were brought to its attention by consumers calling a US anti software piracy hotline, and Microsoft's test purchase programme which monitors the legitimacy of software through random purchases from resellers.
"We have an obligation to protect consumers and legitimate resellers," said Mary Jo Schrade, a senior attorney at Microsoft.
"In filing these lawsuits we hope to curb the amount of pirated and counterfeit software on the market, and keep illegal software from finding its way into the hands of unknowing consumers and businesses."
Microsoft added that the Anti-Counterfeiting Amendments Act, signed by President Bush in December 2004, strengthened the software industry's ability to protect itself from those abusing certificate of authenticity (CoA) labels. These 'authentication' labels are paired with legitimate software.
Previously, legal action was taken against those selling or possessing counterfeit CoA labels. Recent legislation created specific criminal and civil penalties for the distribution of genuine CoA labels without the software that the labels were intended to authenticate.
Schrade maintained that the companies named today were given the opportunity to comply with current laws, including the Anti-Counterfeiting Amendments Act.
"In these cases we sent cease-and-desist letters to help them understand our concerns," she explained.
"We allege that these companies chose to violate the law and continued to do so even after we discovered their activity and provided information on how to operate legally. Disregard for the laws that honest resellers follow is troubling.
"We will continue to do what we can to educate our channel partners and consumers about the risks associated with selling, buying or using pirated and counterfeit items.
"As a last resort we will take legal action to help ensure that software identified as Microsoft's is genuine, legitimate software."
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