Microsoft gets tough on Certificate of Authenticity counterfeiters

Microsoft is aligning its legions of lawyers to face the problem of counterfeit labels applied to computers with hooky copies of Microsoft software installed inside.

The company has filed eight lawsuits against computer resellers in seven states across the US alleging they distributed counterfeit Certificate of Authenticity (COA) labels on their products. In gathering its evidence, Redmond spent the last year buying hundreds of computers and software products to check for the authenticity of these labels.

‘The practice of selling or using COA labels that do not correspond with the appropriate software is the same as distributing an appraisal certificate for a diamond separately from the sale of the diamond. A COA label has no independent value if it is separated from the software it authenticates,’ said Pip Marlow, general manager for US Partner Enablement at Microsoft. ‘The purchase program is one way in which Microsoft is responding to the feedback from our partners and customers who tell us that we need to take steps to protect them against dishonest dealers and resellers who are peddling unlicensed and counterfeit software.’

The company filed the first eight lawsuits in California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington. Microsoft says the defendants continued the use of counterfeit COA labels even after they were contacted by the company.

The cost of legitimate copies of Windows software can amount to a significant proportion of the cost of machines sold by computer makers. Using counterfeit software and authentication stickers can give that vendor a very real advantage over legitimate rivals that have to factor in that cost.

‘Resellers who use illegitimate COA labels or pirated product keys to hoodwink consumers undercut honest businesses and create a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace,’ said David June, director of development and business relations for Northwest Computer Supplies in Bellingham, Wash. ‘The lost business opportunities for ethical companies are immediate and painful. We endorse Microsoft’s action to level the playing field for honest businesses.’

Microsoft has recently launched an initiative in the UK to allow anyone that believes they have a counterfeit copy of Windows to have Microsoft check it out and replace it with the genuine article for free if they can offer details of where they bought it in the first place. In which case one might expect a similar raft of suits in the UK against counterfeit rackets twelve months from now.

For more information on how to check the authenticity of Microsoft products, visit its How To Tell website.

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