REDMOND, Wash., Nov. 18, 1997 — Microsoft Corp. officials today announced that an estimated 200,000 Microsoft® certificates of authenticity (COAs) and 100,000 CD-ROMs, computers and other equipment were taken Nov. 10 in an armed robbery at a manufacturing facility in Scotland that is authorized to replicate Microsoft products for Microsoft’s original equipment manufacturer (OEM) division.
Four masked men with guns forced their way into Thompson Litho Ltd. in Colville Place, East Kilbride, Scotland, where they bound and gagged three Thompson Litho employees and locked them in an office. Before the employees were able to free themselves and trigger an alarm, the gunmen loaded the COAs, CD-ROMs and other property into a van and escaped.
A COA is a security component that accompanies all Microsoft OEM software, assuring consumers that it is genuine Microsoft product. The COA comprises a 4-inch-by-4-inch special paper with a holographic image, watermarks, special printing, bar graphs and serialized numbers that in combination are hard for counterfeiters to reproduce. It is affixed to the front cover of users manuals shipped by OEMs. The estimated value of the COAs taken in this heist, if they are affixed to counterfeit Windows® 95 operating system-based products, could be as high as $16 million. The stolen CD-ROMs include programs, in various languages, such as Windows 95, Office 97, the Windows NT® operating system version 4.0, Encarta® 97 Encyclopedia and games.
“We are alerting software distributors and resellers to be on the lookout for the numbers that were on the stolen COAs,” said Nancy Anderson, senior corporate attorney at Microsoft. “We are doing everything in our power to ensure that counterfeit product resulting from this robbery does not reach consumers in the United States or elsewhere and that, if it does, the trail is tracked straight to the source.”
Counterfeiters often sell their illegal product through distribution channels under the guise of “OEM overage,” or “gray-market” software from sources that make it available at considerably cheaper prices, supposedly in an effort to liquidate their inventories.
“Resellers need to be aware of the tactics that counterfeiters use in their marketing efforts,” said Geoff Goetz, anti-piracy program manager for Microsoft OEM sales in North America. “Counterfeiters won’t approach you and openly offer stolen goods. Instead, they’re going to disguise it. In fact, this theft clearly indicates the value counterfeiters place on being able to represent their illegal product as gray-market merchandise. In the end, it’s the consumer who suffers from this illegal charade.”
Companies that build PCs and want to obtain Microsoft OEM product for inclusion with their systems should obtain product only from Microsoft’s 11 authorized Delivery Service Partners. A list of DSPs is available at http://www.microsoft.com/oem/ .
Microsoft receives more than 2,000 calls and e-mail messages each month that are reviewed by investigators to identify computer retailers and end users who are using or distributing Microsoft software illegally. In addition to increasing enforcement efforts, Microsoft is working to help consumers recognize warning signs that could indicate they are acquiring illegal or counterfeit software, such as the following:
Prices that are “too good to be true”
No certificate of authenticity
A line on the front cover of the users guide that states, “For distribution with a new PC only.” Microsoft’s agreements with computer manufacturers prohibit them from distributing Microsoft software without accompanying PC hardware.
No end-user license agreement
No product registration card
No backup disks, manuals or other materials for software installed on a new computer system
Backup disks that have handwritten labels, are not shrink-wrapped, or appear to be of inferior quality
Manuals that are photocopied, are not shrink-wrapped, or appear to be of inferior quality
Customers or resellers with questions about the legitimacy of Microsoft products should contact the Microsoft anti-piracy hot line, (800) RU-LEGIT (785-3448), send e-mail to [email protected] , or visit the anti-piracy Web site at http://www.microsoft.com/piracy/default.asp . For more information about software piracy, call the Business Software Alliance (BSA) anti-piracy hot line at (888) NO PIRACY (667-4722), send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the BSA’s Web site at (http://www.bsa.org/) .
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Note to editors: The following list provides the COA numbers that were stolen in the robbery.
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