Microsoft files certificate of authenticity lawsuits

On Tuesday, Microsoft announced that it had for the first launched a series of copyright and trademark infringement lawsuits against small and medium sized PC makers, alleging that they distribute bogus copies of Windows bearing counterfeit or illegal Certificates of Authenticity (COA). Microsoft uses the hologram-based COAs to help consumers identify legitimate versions of its software.

Some of the COAs Microsoft discovered are counterfeits. But the company also discovered that a number of resellers were removing COAs from PCs and other hardware so that they could distribute them with pirated software.

"The practice of selling or using COA labels that do not correspond with the appropriate software is the same as distributing an appraisal certificate for a diamond separately from the sale of the diamond," Microsoft general manager for US Partner Enablement Pip Marlow says. "Our partners and customers ... tell us that we need to take steps to protect them against dishonest dealers and resellers who are peddling unlicensed and counterfeit software."

The company filed a total of eight lawsuits in California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Washington after launching a test program a year ago to identify computer resellers who buy or sell counterfeit COAs. Each of the defendants in these cases continued using counterfeit COAs after they were contacted about the practice, Microsoft says.

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