Microsoft Corp., in a nationwide sting operation, nabbed eight resellers it said were pedaling pirated software, the company announced this week.
Microsoft filed eight lawsuits against companies in Arizona, California, Illinois, Minnesota and New York alleging copyright infringement and trademark violations for selling pirated Microsoft software, including Windows XP, Windows NT Server Version 4.0, Office 2000 Premium and counterfeit certificates of authenticity.
Damages are likely to be in the millions of dollars as each count of trademark infringement allows up to $1 million in penalties and each copyright infringement up to $150,000. Microsoft will not know how many counts to accuse each defendant of until it reviews the companies sales, but it is likely each company committed dozens of acts, said Mary Jo Schrade, senior attorney at Microsoft.
The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant coupled consumer tips and a clandestine program, "secret shoppers," to catch the alleged software pirates in the act, the company said. Once the defendants were identified, either through calls to Microsofts anti-piracy hotline or via Windows Genuine Advantage, an online software verification tool, Microsoft sent letters asking them to stop, then allowed operatives, posing as customers, to purchase software and components that they later determined to be counterfeit. The process was repeated, ensuring the action was "willful," before legal action was taken, Schrade said.