Microsoft legal action over counterfeits

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It’s long been known that many sellers of software have skated around the edge of licensing rules with Microsoft a main target. OEM software in particular has been under the spotlight, with the ubiquitous “supplied with a piece of hardware” statement, to try and bend compliance in the sellers favour. The fact is that whilst operating systems could be sold with some hardware upgrades applications such as Microsoft office could not.

Sellers went one step further though, licences sold with a PC are often not used in corporate environments – companies often have bulk licence agreements to cover all PC’s for ease of administration and upgrades. This meant the OEM licences the PC’s are supplied with are not required. Microsoft rules state that an OEM licence lives and dies with the hardware it’s first installed on, but sellers have been reselling the surplus licences at a hefty profit. After all if the company paid for it and don’t need it, you effectively have a zero product cost if you purloin it for sale! Some have even gone so far as to scrape the Certificate of Authenticity from the side of the PC to resell, others supply “With a product key” which arrives printed on a scrap of paper.

Microsoft have started to fight back, in recent months there has been a distinct lack of their software at knock down prices on eBay. Many sellers have moved on to other markets and Microsoft have worked with eBay to remove offending auctions. News has just come to light that Microsoft have been purchasing software that they suspect may not be legitimate for analysis, and are prosecuting two sellers in the US with cases filed last week. In some instances they determined the CD’s were counterfeit and in others that the product keys accompanying the software were not authorized for use or distribution with that software.

eBay seller, ChicagoComputerBroker is charged with counterfeiting and selling Microsoft applications such as Word and Excel, and another seller irish5025 is accused of assisting in the scam. Microsoft state irish5025 had counterfeit software for sale on nine occasions between April and June last year and alleges several purchases from ChicagoComputerBroker this January were bootleg.

Although not all the sales of counterfeit software are alleged to have been on eBay but also at computer trade shows, it’s high time this area of eBay was cleaned up for good. With Microsoft Vista recently released and Microsoft Office 2007 becoming available, counterfeits are already rife at knock down prices. They are not welcome on eBay and if it takes more court cases to keep them off then so much the better!


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