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Microsoft accuses Brit companies of piracy

The software giant commences legal proceedings against the directors of two British companies for allegedly infringing its copyright and the Microsoft trademark.

LONDON--Two British companies are facing the wrath of Microsoft's ongoing anti-piracy campaign for allegedly selling counterfeit Microsoft products.

Microsoft has commenced legal proceedings against the directors of two Basingstoke-based companies--Pacific Computers and Taran Microsystems--for allegedly infringing its copyright and the Microsoft trademark. The claims forms were filed on Aug. 2.

Two directors of Pacific Computers, Marc Roach and Richard Donaldson, as well as two former directors and shareholders, Andrew Miles and Simon Miles, stand charged with allegedly selling counterfeit products, including Microsoft Windows 98 OEM packs. Microsoft is investigating the full details of the company's dealings, but claims that the sales took place between July 2000 and February 2001.

Andrew and Simon Miles face additional charges for their alleged illegal activity at Taran Microsystems. Microsoft claims the company sold counterfeit Microsoft products, including Office 97 and Windows 98.

In its ongoing crusade against software piracy, Microsoft is accusing the two companies of infringing the copyright of its license documentation. It is also claiming infringement of the Microsoft trademark. Injunctions have been requested against the companies and each of their directors.

Copyright infringement is a criminal offense under British law. A successful prosecution for selling counterfeit software could result in a 5,000-pound ($7,276) fine in a Magistrate Court, or a two-year jail sentence.

But the Trading Standards office said this particular case will be treated as a civil matter. "It's a matter for Microsoft, as the trademark holder, to take the case to court and seek damages," said a spokesman.

Microsoft also has launched an investigation into suspected copyright breaches by Pacific Computers and Taran Microsystems. If the prosecution is successful, the companies could each face unlimited financial damages.

Staff writer Wendy McAuliffe reported from London.