Microsoft takes action against auctioneers over sales of illegal software

4 Dec 2008

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Microsoft has instigated over 63 legal actions against auctioneers in 12 countries over the sale of counterfeit software, including ‘Blue Edition’ counterfeit Windows XP software.

The majority of the cases announced involve counterfeit Windows XP software or components. Windows XP is coming to the end of its sales cycle, although genuine Windows XP products are still available through some channels.

In one case, counterfeiters in New Zealand allegedly sold counterfeit software they obtained in China to customers in six customers.

The 63 legal actions are taking place in 12 countries, including 16 in the United States, 12 in Germany, 12 in France and 7 in the United Kingdom, as well as proceedings in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand.

“Dishonest auctioneers are too often using these online auction sites to sell counterfeit and illegal copies of Microsoft software, taking advantage of unsuspecting customers around the world,” said David Finn, associate general counsel for worldwide anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting at Microsoft.

“These dealers are peddling bogus products that can put customers and their personal information at serious risk.”

In recent months, Microsoft received complaints from victims of a new online auction scheme by auctioneers selling discounted software from a fabricated marketing program dubbed ‘Blue Edition’. The entirely fictional ‘Blue Edition’ scheme fools unsuspecting consumers into purchasing counterfeit software burned onto a CD.

“By taking legal action against these and other alleged counterfeiters, Microsoft is helping ensure that consumers around the world are protected from those who sell counterfeit software over the internet,” said Finn.

“We are also continuing to arm our customers with the information they need to keep from falling victim to counterfeit software.  Consumers should be aware that the so-called ‘Blue Edition’ software is nothing more than low-quality counterfeit software burned onto a CD.”

The growth of internet auction sites has also made it possible for people to purchase software online from anywhere in the world.

In one case, Microsoft New Zealand and Microsoft Australia received complaints from customers who had allegedly purchased the counterfeit software in question. Numerous consumer complaints were also filed on iOffer.com and Trademe.co.nz against the reseller.

As part of its follow-up investigation in this case, Microsoft learned that auctioneers in New Zealand sold high-quality counterfeit Microsoft Windows and Office software to unsuspecting consumers in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and 15 US states.

“The International Trademark Association (INTA) applauds Microsoft’s actions to help make online auctions safer for consumers and less hospitable to counterfeiters, who are violating trademark laws,” said Alan C Drewsen, executive director, INTA.

“Unsuspecting customers seeking good deals on the internet are a prime target for counterfeiters, and we encourage customers to be smart shoppers to avoid fakes. Legal actions like these send an important message around the world that intellectual property infringement, wherever it occurs, is a global crime that endangers consumers as well as brand owners.”

Microsoft said counterfeit software presents real risks to consumers and businesses by opening their computers to security breaches that can result in the loss, damage or mis-use of important data or personal information.

Even the most experienced online shoppers searching online marketplaces for the best deal can be tricked by counterfeit resellers. A June 2006 forensic analysis of counterfeit Windows XP disks conducted by Microsoft found that 34pc of the disks could not be installed correctly and 43pc contained tampered code that could leave a victim open to data loss, identity theft or other malicious attacks.

Microsoft provides resources like HowToTell.com and other tools to help consumers buy the genuine article.

By John Kennedy

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com