Microsoft Alleges Four Missouri Businesses Distributed Counterfeit Software

KANSAS CITY, Mo., Feb. 29, 2000 — At a press conference today at the Hyatt Regency in Kansas City, Microsoft Corp. officials announced that the company has taken legal action to stop four Missouri computer resellers from allegedly distributing counterfeit Microsoft® software. The lawsuits, alleging copyright violations and trademark infringements, are part of the company’s ongoing efforts to protect consumers and legitimate software distributors from the harmful effects of software piracy and to reduce the toll it takes on the economy.

Software piracy has a significant impact on state and local economies across the country and around the world. According to a recent study by International Planning & Research Corp., Missouri lost 2,594 jobs to software piracy in 1998, equating to a loss of more than $78 million in wages and salaries. In addition, piracy also cost Missouri more than $11 million in taxes during 1998 — money that otherwise could have contributed to local and state improvement projects.

“Businesses that are honestly paying for the proper software licensing are operating at an unfair disadvantage to those who are paying to unethically do business,”
said Gary Alexander of Alexander Open Systems.
“Dishonest resellers that encourage customers to cheat on licensing magnify the problem. Microsoft is doing honest resellers a service by helping curb software piracy.”

Tips called in to the Microsoft anti-piracy hot line by customers or other resellers who have obtained suspicious software initiate most investigations. Microsoft customarily notifies a company that it is suspected of acting illegally and asks the company to stop the illegal activity. Microsoft then determines whether the suspected company has continued its illegal activity before filing a lawsuit. According to allegations in the complaints, each of the defendants continued to distribute unauthorized Microsoft software even after receiving this written request from Microsoft asking them to stop unlawful activities.

All of the complaints allege the distribution of counterfeit software or software components to investigators and/or customers. The following complaints were filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri:

  • PC Max Inc. of Springfield allegedly distributed counterfeit components of the Microsoft Windows® 95 and Windows 98 operating systems and Office Professional 97 (Case No. 00-3066-CV-S).

  • Snow Technologies Inc. of Gladstone allegedly distributed counterfeit components of Office Professional 97 (Case No. 00-0193-CV-W-4).

  • Software Center of Joplin allegedly distributed counterfeit components of Microsoft Office Professional 97 (Case No. 00-5014-CV-SW).

The fourth case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri:

  • User Friendly Computers of Clarence allegedly distributed counterfeit components of Windows 95 and Office Professional 97 (Case No. 2:00CV00014-CEJ).

“Protecting consumers and our reseller partners is one of the main reasons that we’re putting significant efforts into preventing software piracy,”
said Janice Block, Microsoft corporate attorney.
“Not only does piracy hurt resellers by creating an unlevel playing field for them, but consumers who acquire counterfeit software often find their software is missing key elements — including software code — and are ineligible for technical support and upgrades.”

Microsoft has announced that, in addition to its other community affairs activities, it expects to donate an estimated $25 million over the next five years — half of its anticipated software piracy recoveries during that time period — to nonprofit organizations worldwide focused on providing access to technology for disadvantaged communities. In 1998, software piracy caused losses to the U.S. economy amounting to nearly $1 billion in taxes, $4.5 billion in wages and 109,000 jobs.

Consumers and resellers are encouraged to become familiar with the warning signs that can help them identify counterfeit or illegal software:

  • Prices that are
    “too good to be true”

  • Suspicious methods of delivery and/or payment

  • Retail software distributed in jewel cases only, rather than in full-color retail boxes

  • Products marked with a phrase, such as
    “For distribution with a new PC only”
    or
    “Special CD for licensed customers only,”
    that does not describe the transaction. These phrases are often used to dupe customers into purchasing counterfeit software.

Customers or resellers with questions about the legitimacy of Microsoft software should contact the Microsoft anti-piracy hot line, toll free, at (800) RU-LEGIT (785-3448) or send e-mail to piracy@microsoft.com. In addition, a list of authorized distributors and details regarding the OEM System Builder program are available at http://www.microsoft.com/oem/ . Consumers can obtain more information about software piracy by calling the Business Software

Alliance anti-piracy hot line at (888) NO-PIRACY (667-4722) or by sending e-mail to software@bsa.org.

About Microsoft

Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq
“MSFT”
) is the worldwide leader in software for personal and business computing. The company offers a wide range of products and services designed to empower people through great software – any time, any place and on any device.

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