Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), the world's largest software maker, on Monday said it was filing lawsuits against eight computer system builders and resellers in seven U.S. states, accusing them of distributing counterfeit and unlicensed software and software components.
The lawsuits follow similar action in November 2004 against eight dealers. Legal amendments in 2003 provide criminal and civil penalties for distributing software without authenticity certificates.
"Our partners are coming to us and asking for our help," said Microsoft senior attorney Bonnie MacNaughton in a statement.
"They are being undercut and forced out of business by having to compete with dishonest PC manufacturers and resellers who continue to sell illegitimate software."
Microsoft said the lawsuits, filed in California, Florida, Texas, New Jersey, Alabama, Maryland and Rhode Island, alleged distribution of counterfeit, illicit and unlicensed software and components.
The lawsuits stem from an ongoing test purchase program started by Microsoft in 1997 in which the company acquires software, components or computer systems from dealers and tests them for authenticity.
If they are not legitimate, the dealer is generally sent a cease-and-desist letter and told how it can obtain legal, genuine software before Microsoft takes further action.
Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft cited the Business Software Alliance (search), which says 22 percent of software being used on computers in the United States is unlicensed, including counterfeit and pirated software.