This week Microsoft launched nearly 80 lawsuits against resellers it claims were distributing used or fake certificates of authenticity.
The lawsuits – which allege that the resellers are violating copyrights and infringing on trademarks – were launched after 12 months of investigation by various teams at Microsoft. Microsoft went so far as to buy actual fake or used certificates of authenticity from the vendors in a move reminiscent of 1980s “sting” operations.
The use of Certificate of Authenticity is itself, ironically, a move to prevent piracy. They identify Microsoft products as genuine – which is just about as useful as putting a “genuine” sticker on a 100$ bill. If pirates can copy the software, packaging and holographic CD’s they can certain learn to copy the certificates of authenticity which is apparently just what they are doing.
The investigation found that the most common form of abuse was resellers issuing certificates of authenticity for other products – a Frontpage certificate for Windows XP, for example. Resellers also tried to sell the labels separately in order to lend, ironically, authenticity to pirated versions of software.
Because more than 95% of Microsoft’s software is sold by partners, the abuse by resellers is something that directly affects Microsoft’s bottom line – customers are buying computers and software they feel are real, and Microsoft isn’t getting any of the income.
Microsoft sued the resellers that it charges with copyright and trademark infringement only when they continued their alleged abuse after being contacted by Microsoft, the company says.
Microsoft says it sued: Monarch Technology, of San Clemente, California; Kenneth Xu, of Union City, California; Era, of Lake Zurich, Illinois; Micro Info Tech (USA), of Edison, New Jersey; Affordable Computer Warehouse, of Clinton, New York; Warp Systems/Computers, of Raleigh, North Carolina; Master Computer, of State College, Pennsylvania; and Software Provisions, of Vancouver, Washington.