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Microsoft to file counterfeiting charges in NZ

Microsoft continues to crack down on people it believes are counterfeiting and selling its software. Yesterday the company added another 63 legal filings in 12 countries, including New Zealand, against individuals who it says are selling counterfeit Microsoft products.

The 63 actions are against people allegedly selling counterfeit versions of Microsoft Office, Windows XP and other products at online auction sites, says Matt Lundy, senior attorney with Microsoft's anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting team.

Of the cases being filed, 16 are against defendants in the US, 12 each in Germany and France, and seven in the UK. The other cases deal with activity originating in Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico and New Zealand.

Auction sites are especially dangerous for consumers because they allow counterfeiters to reach anyone who browses the Internet, giving them a broad swathe of potential victims, Lundy says.

In one case Microsoft is working on, a defendant operating in New Zealand was able to ship counterfeit software from China to customers in the US, he says. Microsoft says it found sophisticated operations that relied on auction sites hosted in New Zealand that sold high-quality copies, then had the software shipped directly from the counterfeiter in China to buyers in the US, Europe and elsewhere.

"This demonstrates the global reach that the Internet and online auction spaces can provide pirates," Lundy says.

Sites at which the alleged activity occurred include, Craigslist, eBay, MySpace, PCWorld and PriceGrabber, to name just a few, according to Microsoft.

A popular scam Microsoft is targeting in this round of legal activity is a fictitious marketing scheme called the "Blue Edition". In these cases, counterfeiters say they are offering a special edition of Microsoft software, called the Blue Edition, that is available very cheaply because it was part of a manufacturer's surplus of the product, Lundy says.

"It's critical for customers to understand that Blue Edition is fictional," Lundy says. "It's merely an attempt by pirates to fool unsuspecting consumers into buying this product."

Microsoft identified the Blue Edition scam through complaints from customers that came directly to the company or were posted at online auction sites when people realised their merchandise was counterfeit, Lundy says. Most of the Blue Edition cases Microsoft is dealing with target customers in the US, he says.

Microsoft's continued legal activity to prevent the sale of counterfeit or pirated software is part of its Genuine Software Initiative, described at the company's website.

Microsoft also has a site called "How To Tell" that helps people determine whether the Microsoft software they were sold is genuine.

— Additional reporting by Gregg Keizer