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Microsoft slaps firms with piracy lawsuits

Files suits accusing companies in two states of selling counterfeit copies of Windows and related products.

In its latest effort to curb software piracy, Microsoft has filed suits accusing five companies in two states of selling counterfeit copies of Windows and related products.

The suits, which Microsoft publicized Wednesday, allege that two software distributors in California and three in Virginia violated copyright and trademark laws that protect the Windows franchise. Specifically the suits allege the companies sold counterfeit versions of its programs or program components, and counterfeit certificates of authenticity.

The company also invoked a new federal law, called the Anti-counterfeiting Amendments Act of 2004, against one of the defendants named in the suits. The law, which took effect a few months ago, makes it illegal to sell certificate of authenticity labels without the software they were intended to authenticate.

"In filing these lawsuits, we hope to curb the amount of pirated and counterfeit software on the market and keep illegal software from finding its way into the hands of unknowing consumers and businesses," Mary Jo Schrade, senior attorney at Microsoft, said in a statement.

The five companies named in the suits are CEO Microsystems, of Irvine, Calif.; Wiston Group, of Walnut, Calif.; #9 Software of Hampton, Va.; East Outlet of Newport News, Va.; and Super Supplier, also of Newport News.

#9 Software is the lone defendant accused of violating the Anti-Counterfeiting Amendments Act. Shawn Lee, a co-owner of #9 Software, said the company has been selling genuine COA labels for years but that there are legitimate reasons for doing so. The company ceased selling them this week after learning of the lawsuit, Lee said.

Representatives of East Outlet and Super Supplier did not immediately return calls for comment. Representatives for CEO Microsystems and Wiston Group declined to comment on the suits.

Microsoft is increasingly turning to the courts to combat a long-standing piracy problem. In April, the company filed antipiracy suits against eight software distributors in seven states, accusing them of selling counterfeit and unlicensed software. It has filed about 30 such suits during the past year in a renewed effort to crack down on counterfeits. All those suits are still in the courts.

Microsoft said the latest suits stemmed from tips from consumers who called its piracy complaint line, 1-800-RU-LEGIT, and through its own internal policing efforts.