Microsoft settles lawsuits with Aussie resellers

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Microsoft settles lawsuits with Aussie resellers

Microsoft Australia has settled its legal action against four Victorian computer businesses, Panda Computer, JSN Computers, PC Ideas, and Ozsmartstore, a company that operates through eBay.

Microsoft Australia has settled its legal action against four Victorian computer businesses, Panda Computer, JSN Computers, PC Ideas, and Ozsmartstore, a company that operates through eBay.

All four have admitted to distributing unauthorised versions of Microsoft software, including Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Office Professional Edition 2003, to consumers.

Suzanne Caldwell, anti-piracy manager, Microsoft Australia said the company brought a case against Panda Computer and its sole director, Rowena Chen, in August 2006 in the Federal Magistrates Court in Sydney, for infringement of Microsoft’s copyright.

Microsoft had previously settled with Panda Computer in 2004, when the reseller was reported to the Anti-Piracy Hotline for hard disk loading, a practice where system builders sell PCs with unlicensed software pre-installed.

In early 2006, Microsoft received a number of new reports through its Anti-Piracy Hotline indicating Panda Computer was hard disk loading again.

Microsoft re-investigated and in June 2006, Panda Computer sold a personal computer which came loaded with an unauthorised copy of Microsoft software to an investigator.

In September 2006, Microsoft agreed to settle its case against Panda Computer and Chen, who admitted the company had infringed Microsoft copyright.

The terms of settlement included that Panda Computer and Chen agree to supply (at their cost) genuine Microsoft replacement products to any customer who discovers that software purchased from Panda Computer is counterfeit.

Microsoft also settled a case against William Tjiong Wirawan, who trades under the name Ozsmartstore, based in Caulfield East Victoria, for supplying "high- quality" counterfeit software through eBay.

Caldwell said the other two cases were against sellers, for allegedly misusing their eBay or other website accounts to sell counterfeit software to unsuspecting consumers and businesses.

Many of the defendants received warnings for infringing behaviour before the legal action, including written cease and desist orders and/or removal of their auctions by the online host, Microsoft said.

In each case, subsequent investigations or "test purchases" revealed copyright and trademark infringement by the defendant seller, Microsoft said.

Many of the allegedly infringing sellers were identified through tips submitted from consumers through Microsoft’s Windows Genuine Advantage (WGA) program and Anti-Piracy Hotline, the company said.

“We want to protect legitimate computer businesses and resellers who do the right thing in selling genuine software. Microsoft won’t stand by and allow their businesses and employees to be undermined by unscrupulous vendors,” she said.

The settlements coincides with Microsoft’s lodgement of around 50 legal actions worldwide, including another three in Australia, against online merchants who the company alleges sell counterfeit software on popular internet auction sites.

Caldwell said Microsoft has also lodged proceedings in either the Federal Magistrates Court or the Federal Court of Australia against Safar Safar, who operates a business trading under the name “Compubits” in NSW, Zhiyang Xu owner of “TopTeq Computer” in NSW and RP Distribution trading as “LGA Logistics" owned by Reuben Mark Vella.

The resellers were not available for a comment at the time of press.

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