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Comet Pledges ‘Vigorous Defence’ Against Microsoft Lawsuit

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Electrical retailer Comet has pledged to defend itself after software giant Microsoft launched a lawsuit over recovery CDs

The British high street electrical retailer Comet is being sued by software giant Microsoft, for allegedly producing counterfeit CDs containing the Windows operating system.

However Comet has hit back and dismissed Redmond’s claims.

Recovery Disks

The Microsoft lawsuit alleges that Comet had made tens of thousands of unauthorised Windows  CDs and sold them to customers.

It says that Comet created more than 94,000 counterfeit “recovery disks” for the Vista and Windows XP operating systems, which it then sold to customers buying new PCs and laptops that were preloaded with one of these operating systems.

The recovery disks allowed customers to rebuild the computer in the event of a catastrophic failure, such as a hard disk crash. Comet allegedly sold these recovery disks separately to customers from the PC between March 2008 and December 2009.

“As detailed in the complaint filed today, Comet produced and sold thousands of counterfeit Windows CDs to unsuspecting customers in the United Kingdom,” Microsoft lawyer David Finn was quoted as saying by the Guardian newspaper.

“Comet’s actions were unfair to customers. We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products – and our customers deserve better, too,” he added.

Vigorous Defence

But Comet has refuted Microsoft’s allegations that by producing the recovery discs for customers it has infringed Microsoft’s intellectual property.

“We note that proceedings have been issued by Microsoft Corporation against Comet relating to the creation of recovery discs by Comet on behalf of its customers,” said the retailer, which is now owned by retail company Kesa Electricals.

“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 said in a statement.

“Comet firmly believes that it acted in the very best interests of its customers,” Comet said. “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,” it added.

Intellectual Property

Microsoft tends to act robustly when it considers that its intellectual property has been infringed.

For example the software giant is actively pursuing a legal campaign against Android, leading Google to accuse Microsoft of ‘extortion’ after it reached cross licensing deals with Samsung and others last year.

But in December 2010 Microsoft quietly pulled the plug on its anti-piracy Office Genuine Advantage programme, and in November 2011 the software giant voiced its opposition to the US SOPA anti-piracy legislation in its current form.

Last April the Business Software Alliance (BSA) revealed that software piracy had jumped 14 percent worldwide, costing software companies about $59 billion (£36bn).