Microsoft sues Comet over pirated Windows CDs

Software giant Microsoft is to sue the UK retailer Comet for allegedly pirating tens of thousands of Windows CDs and selling them to customers.

According to Microsoft, Comet created more than 94,000 counterfeit “recovery discs” for its Windows Vista and Windows XP operating systems which they sold for £14.99 each.

The Guardian reports that between March 2008 and December 2009 Comet made more than a million pounds out of the discs.

Comet said that the lawsuit is rubbish and that it acted in the interests of consumers because Microsoft had stopped supplying the recovery disks with new computers.

The CDs were sold to Comet customers who had bought PCs and laptops that come pre-loaded with Windows. It meant that they could rebuild the operating system in the event of a serious crash.

Microsoft lawyer David Finn insisted that the Windows CDs were counterfeit and Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. Comet produced the counterfeit CDs at a factory in Hampshire and then sold them to customers from its 248 stores across the UK.

Comet has put its hands up to producing the recovery disks for customers, but the retailer claimed that doing so did not infringe Microsoft’s intellectual property.

It sought and received legal advice from leading counsel to support its view that the production of recovery disks did not infringe Microsoft’s intellectual property. Comet is content that it has a good defence to the accusation.

Other legal experts are not so sure. Part of the problem is that Comet charged for the service. Back up copies of computer software are allowed to be made as long as there is no extra economic benefit.