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Software pirate to pay $1.1 million

Award to Microsoft and Symantec is result of plea agreement in a case in Houston in which the defendant admitted he sold pirated software.

An admitted counterfeiter has agreed to pay Microsoft and Symantec $1.1 million in restitution, a victory in the software industry's fight against software piracy.

The award is part of a plea agreement in a criminal software piracy case in Houston, Symantec said Tuesday. The case came to court after a yearlong investigation by the Houston police and the FBI into the activities of Li Chen, who was found to have 5,100 copies of counterfeit Symantec software at his Houston business, Symantec said.

Chen pled guilty to one count of trademark infringement and agreed to pay Symantec $1,005,000 in restitution, the Cupertino, Calif., software maker said. Microsoft is to get $95,000, according to a copy of the agreement, which was signed on Aug. 29.

Law enforcement officials searched Chen's business, Microsource International, on Nov. 17, 2004. In addition to the pirated software, they found documents showing that Chen had sold counterfeit Symantec products with a retail value of more than $9.9 million, Symantec said.

"This guy was one of the largest distributors of pirated software. He had direct ties to China, where the counterfeit product was being produced," said Cris Paden, a Symantec spokesman.

Microsoft worked with Symantec to support the Houston police and FBI in this case, said Bonnie MacNaughton, a senior attorney at the Redmond, Wash., software giant. "Microsoft is very pleased with the outcome and law enforcement's support for intellectual property protection," she said in a statement provided by Microsoft's public relations agency.

Symantec and Microsoft both have significant ongoing initiatives to fight software piracy. Since September 2003, Symantec has won judgments in criminal and civil court of more than $19.5 million in damages against various entities for selling counterfeit Symantec software, the company said.