analyst, Evans Research Corporation, Toronto

In its fight against privacy Microsoft may win a battle, but it still remains to be seen whether it will win the war.

That is how a couple of industry insiders are reacting to Microsoft Canada Co.’s latest lawsuits against six Ontario system builders for allegedly selling unlicensed copies of their software on computers.If you ask me whether targeting only six people is just, when hundreds and thousands are doing similar things, I would say no, but targeting people who are engaging in piracy is right.Michelle Warren>Text

“If you ask me whether targeting only six people is just, when hundreds and thousands are doing similar things, I would say no, but targeting people who are engaging in piracy is right,” said Michelle Warren, analyst at Toronto-based company Evans Research Corporation (ERC). “Microsoft is doing a commendable job” she said. ERC conducts research on topics that interest the IT industry.

Warren was reacting to Microsoft Canada Co.’s latest onslaught against piracy. This week the Mississauga-based corporation filed lawsuits in the federal court against the six system builders who, it claimed, were loading Microsoft software onto PCs and selling them without the CD-ROMs. Microsoft has alleged copyright and trade-mark infringement against the six builders.

“As part of Microsoft’s larger anti-piracy strategy, it is important that system builders understand the legal ramifications of distributing unlicensed or pirated software to consumers and businesses,” said Susan Harper, license compliance manager at Microsoft Canada Co. “By taking legal action, we hope system builders understand this is a serious matter that will be pursued to the full extent of the law.”

Warren conceded that the system builders market is a competitive one with more supply than demand of computer products. “So the option of providing pirated software would look profitable. But within organizations there is usually a struggle as to which way to follow — the right one or the wrong one.” She said the Ontario builders obviously made their choice. “That is why the laws are in place.”

Amongst other things, Microsoft has sought damages ranging from $20,000 to $160,000.

According to legal experts, the lawsuit would be an expensive one for both the parties. “It could cost Microsoft anything from a hundred thousand to millions of dollars,” said Glen Perinot, litigation and intellectual property lawyer at Toronto-based law firm Heydary, Garfin and Hamilton.

Perinot expects Microsoft to move ahead with the trial that he predicted would come at least after two years. “It is obvious that Microsoft wants to send a message to other infringers that they are willing to go right till the end,” he said.

Perinot said it is obvious that both the parties are in for a long haul. He explained before trial, they would have to draft pleadings. Microsoft Canada would have to explain why it is going after the six infringers. Next, a defense would be filed by the other party. Both the parties would swap their documents before reaching the next stage of discovery. Then the case would reach the trial stage before which there would be an option of going for mediation.

Perinot said the advantage Microsoft has over other companies as the plaintiff is that it can afford to enforce its intellectual property rights. “Smaller companies would not be able to afford it.”

This is not the first time that Microsoft has taken such a step. In Canada, as well as the US it has been consistently launching law suits against system builders. In December 2005, Microsoft launched a similar suit against seven system builders in GTA area.

Warren lauded Microsoft for its fight against piracy. “There is a growing acceptance in society for fake stuff whether it may be software or consumer products like Gucci or Prada,” she said. Corporations such as Microsoft are trying to combat this by educating us on the value of the product.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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