As part of Microsoft Corp.’s commitment to honest business partners that distribute the company’s products, the company announced 20 lawsuits today against resellers allegedly engaged in the distribution of infringing software and software components. The company also announced research findings from its first large-scale forensic analysis of counterfeit versions of Microsoft Windows XP acquired in 17 countries around the world, which it says demonstrates that counterfeit software contains risks for typical users, not just the “pirates” who manufacture and sell it.

The lawsuits, filed against 20 defendants throughout the U.S., are against companies that allegedly distributed counterfeit software or software components or participated in hard-disk loading. Hard-disk loading is the installation of unlicensed software on computers that are then sold to unsuspecting businesses or consumers who will be denied the benefits of genuine Microsoft software. Lawsuits were filed against companies in nine states: Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon and Texas.

Microsoft said that the lawsuits announced today are part of a broader company initiative to combat counterfeiting and other forms of software piracy. “We want to make it clear to people who try to profit illegally,” said Microsoft senior attorney Mary Jo Schrade. “Microsoft is determined to protect its intellectual property, while also helping protect consumers and honest resellers from the deceptive and dangerous practices of counterfeiting and hard-disk loading. We devote significant resources to helping ensure the integrity of the software marketplace and will not sit by as consumers are put at risk and honest resellers are hurt.”

The legal actions and results of the forensic analysis announced today are part of a broader Microsoft program, the Genuine Software Initiative (GSI), designed to protect the company’s intellectual property. GSI focuses the company’s resources targeting the distribution of infringing Microsoft software into three areas: education, engineering and enforcement.

Forensic Analysis of Counterfeit Microsoft Software Media

Findings from the forensic analysis of counterfeit Microsoft Windows XP software disks in June 2006 highlighted that one in three counterfeit disks could not be installed on a computer. The remaining counterfeit disks proved to have risks due to tampered code, which could result in denial-of-service attacks, bypass of password protection and application memory corruption.

— Of the 348 disks studied:
— Thirty-four percent of the counterfeit copies analyzed could not be
installed on a computer.
— Forty-three percent had additional programs, or binary code, that
are not part of genuine Microsoft Windows

“Counterfeit software is big business worldwide,” Schrade said. “As this research highlights, consumers and businesses need to make informed choices when purchasing software or risk the possible consequences of using counterfeit software.”

The evidence gathered for the lawsuits announced today were received via Microsoft’s hot line, (800) RU-LEGIT (785-3448), or via e-mail through Microsoft purchases software and computers from sellers throughout the country in the same way a consumer or business would make the purchase, and tests them for authenticity, which enables Microsoft to determine whether pirated Microsoft software is being distributed in the market.