Microsoft filed federal lawsuits against 10 small Florida computer retailers Wednesday, claiming the companies sold fake copies of Windows and Office software.
Microsoft said the retailers infringed on its trademarks and copyrights by selling counterfeit copies of Microsoft software, or computers with pirated software installed.
Mary Jo Schrade, a lawyer for Microsoft, said the company is seeking damages of as much as $150,000 for each case of copyright infringement, and up to $1 million for each trademark violation.
The retailers named in the lawsuits, filed in U.S. District Courts in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville, are Cruz Car Audio and Computer, Ken's Computers Inc., American Begonia Corp., Compuglobe Inc., Computers & Laptops Center Inc., PC Touch of Florida, Take a Byte Computers Inc., Netfx Pro Inc., NU2UComputers Inc. and Onyx Systems.
Only two of the companies could be reached by phone Wednesday evening. Neither had seen the lawsuits.
"I can't go against gorillas. I'm just a little guy," said Chris Neita, owner of Compuglobe, which is based in Plantation, Fla. Neita acknowledged he had received a letter from Microsoft, but declined to speak further.
Microsoft's lawyer said the company sent letters and made phone calls to the retailers asking them to stop selling the offending products, and took legal action only after the companies apparently did not comply.
"Never in my life have they been in touch," said Gustavo Ibanez, owner of PC Touch in Miami. Ibanez said he sells computers with the appropriate Microsoft codes on them, and that he has invoices for all the software.
Telephone numbers were unavailable for Cruz Audio, Ken's Computers and Onyx Systems. Messages seeking comment were left for the other companies Wednesday evening.
Redmond-based Microsoft has now filed a total of 125 similar lawsuits this fiscal year, compared with 56 for all of last fiscal year. Schrade said Microsoft has received reports from about 74,000 consumers who think they purchased counterfeit software since the company put a report form on the Internet in 2005.
Consumers are more aware of piracy problems in part because Microsoft has beefed up the mechanisms that check for genuine software on new computers, and when users download Microsoft software or sign up for automatic security updates, she said.
The lawyer also said the retailers' low prices should tip consumers off to a potential problem. "Deals that seem too good to be true really are too good to be true," she said.
Microsoft said it also was filing 13 similar lawsuits in California.
Microsoft, U.S., Retailers, Petition, Lawsuits, Florida