January 5, 2012
UK Retailer Comet Sued By Microsoft
Software giant Microsoft is suing Britain´s second largest electronic retailer Comet for allegedly illegally copying recovery disks for the Windows XP and Windows Vista operating systems.
Comet was selling the recovery disks to customers for $23.00. Prior to 2007, PC manufacturers included a separate disk with the recovery software, in case of a system crash due to an incompatible update or due to other system problems. The practice stopped in 2008 because manufacturers were encouraging consumers to create their own recovery disks included on the hard drive.
Comet claims they were acting in their customer´s best interest by providing a pre-made version of the recovery software. But Microsoft´s David Finn, associate general counsel for Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft said, “Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom. Comet´s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft Products – and our customers deserve better, too.”
According to the Guardian, Comet admits to providing the discs to its customers and that doing so does not infringe on Microsoft´s intellectual property.
A spokeswoman for Comet told the Guardian, “Comet firmly believes that it acted in the very best interests of its customers. It believes its customers had been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery discs with each new Microsoft operating system based computer.”
The timing of the lawsuit comes at a trying time for the electronics retailer, who suffered from poor Christmas trading. KESA, the company that owns Comet, is looking to sell the chain in order to lower its debt and stem losses.
Some legal experts believe the retailer is treading on dangerous legal territory and the practice of selling the disks was a breach of intellectual property law. Iain Connor, a law partner at Pinsent Mason specializing in intellectual property disputes said computer software can be copied if there is no extra economic benefit.
Connor said, “Comet is trying to deliver a customer need but if they are charging separately, rather than just making back-up copies for their customers, they are depriving Microsoft of the opportunity to make money and they are cashing in when they shouldn´t.”
Microsoft filed its case in the high court in London.
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