Comet hit with lawsuit for alleged Microsoft Windows piracy

Microsoft is suing Comet, alleging the electronics retailer sold counterfeit Windows backup discs, but Comet claims it was just good customer service.

Microsoft has launched a lawsuit against Comet for alleged Microsoft Windows piracy, claiming the electrical retailer sold more than 94,000 counterfeit backup discs for Windows XP and Vista.

Comet will struggle to 
mount the “backup” copy defence 
by saying 
they are just protecting their customers' investment in the software because the discs are being sold separately.

Iain Connor
Pinsent Masons

The alleged counterfeited software was sold to customers who purchased Windows-loaded PCs and laptops, Microsoft said in a statement issued on December 4.

“As detailed in the complaint filed today, Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom,” David Finn, associate general counsel of Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft, said in a statement. “Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products — and our customers deserve better, too.”

The suit charges Comet with producing the counterfeits in a factory in Hampshire and then selling them to customers from its retail outlets across the UK, charging  £14.95 for each CD.

Comet has responded by saying it was only providing a service to customers. Backup copies of operating systems tend to be supplied by manufacturers on the hard disk of new PCs, leaving users with the task of making their own backup CD.

"Comet firmly believes it acted in the very best interests of its customers," the retailer said in a statement. "It believes its customers had been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery disks with each new Microsoft operating system-based computer. Accordingly, Comet is satisfied that it has a good defence to the claim and will defend its position vigorously."

However, an independent lawyer said the retailers could be on shaky ground because it made money from the backup CDs.

"On the facts, Comet will struggle to mount the “backup” copy defence by saying they are just protecting their customers' investment in the software because the discs are being sold separately,” said Iain Connor, partner and IP litigation lawyer at London-based law firm, Pinsent Masons, in a statement. “If the discs had been bundled with the PC at the point-of-sale, I think they would be on much stronger ground. I think they are in trouble."

Comet is part of the Kesa Electricals group. According to its corporate website, Comet has 248 stores.

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