Microsoft sues big UK retailer for 'counterfeiting'

Posted by Emma Woollacott

A major British electrical retailer has been accused of manufacturing and selling counterfeit Windows recovery disks.

Microsoft says it's issued proceedings against Comet Group for allegedly creating and selling more than 94,000 sets of counterfeit Windows Vista and Windows XP recovery CDs.

They were then sold to customers who had purchased Windows-loaded PCs and laptops, says Microsoft.

"As detailed in the complaint filed today, Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom," says David Finn, associate general counsel for worldwide anti-piracy and anti-counterfeiting at Microsoft.

"Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products — and our customers deserve better, too."

The suit accuses Comet of producing the counterfeits in a factory in Hampshire and then selling them at retail outlets across the UK.

Comet is currently owned by French retail company Kesa Electricals, although it is currently in the process of being taken over by private equity firm OpCapita. While it's had rather turbulent times over recent years, it's still one of the UK's biggest electrical retailers.

Comet admits producing the disks, but denies counterfeiting. It's unclear whether it had any sort of licensing deal with Microsoft in place.

"Comet has sought and received legal advice from leading counsel to support its view that the production of recovery discs did not infringe Microsoft’s intellectual property," it says in a statement.

"Comet firmly believes that it acted in the very best interests of its customers. It believes its customers had been adversely affected by the decision to stop supplying recovery discs with each new Microsoft Operating System based computer. Accordingly Comet is satisfied that it has a good defence to the claim and will defend its position vigorously."