The actions, according to the Redmond giant, have been taken to protect consumers "amid a technology landscape pocked by the fraudulent activities of those seeking to undermine fair business practices".
Seven lawsuits have been filed against nine individuals from California, Maryland, New York, Texas and Virginia alleging breach of a software agreement by which the individuals obtained a number of Microsoft Action Pack Subscriptions (MAPS). The MAPS Initiative is a program that provides eligible partners with discounted Microsoft software packages for product evaluation and internal use.
The MAPS-related lawsuits, the first Microsoft has filed, allege egregious abuse of this program by people who have repeatedly and knowingly broken the terms of the agreement. Some of those named in the suits have allegedly attempted to sell software from their subscriptions to consumers through online auction sites.
"Our partners are negatively affected by the activities of those who compete unfairly by either selling illegal software and components or abusing agreements that other partners abide by," said John Ball, general manager for Microsoft's System Builders Partner Group, which works with businesses that manufacture computers. "These dishonest resellers sell products at minimal costs, undercutting the business of legitimate resellers. Those who operate ethically within the law take a hard financial hit. We like to see our honest partners succeed."
Through its own monitoring of the MAPS program, Microsoft said it has became aware of "abuses of the subscription service", including subscribers falsifying information to unlawfully receive multiple copies of the same software. The MAPS agreement stipulates that partners may subscribe to the MAPS program only once each year, that the software may not be resold and that the software must be used only at the partner's primary business location and only for business purposes such as application development and testing.
"Our honest partners have asked us to intervene to help protect those who abide by laws and rules governing software use and distribution," said Mary Jo Schrade, senior attorney at Microsoft. "The lawsuits announced today are a necessary step to help ensure that those who knowingly and repeatedly violate known and widely accepted standards will not be given free rein to do so. We want to protect the business of honest resellers and try to ensure a level playing field for our partners."