Exclusive: Microsoft Discusses Comet Lawsuit

    January 4, 2012

This morning we reported that Microsoft had filed suit against British retailer Comet for illegally reproducing Windows software. Customers who purchase Windows-based computers at Comet are offered the opportunity to purchase recovery discs as well. The recovery discs are produced in-house by Comet, however, and not by either Microsoft or the computer manufacturers. Microsoft apparently found this practice unacceptable, and has filed suit.

While preparing the story this morning, I attempted to contact representatives of both Microsoft and Comet. I was unable to get in touch with anyone from Comet, however a representative from Microsoft replied via email earlier this afternoon. They sent me the following statement, attributed to David Finn, Associate General Council, Worldwide Anti-Piracy and Anti-Counterfeiting at Microsoft:

Today, Microsoft filed a legal action against UK retailer Comet in the High Court in London. This action focuses on Comet’s unauthorized production of recovery discs, which are one type of recovery solution. Recovery solutions allow customers to repair an operating system, or to reinstall it in the rare event of a system failure.

In 2008 and 2009, Comet approached tens of thousands of customers who had bought PCs with the necessary recovery software already on the hard drive, and offered to sell them unnecessary recovery discs for £14.99. Not only was the recovery software already provided on the hard drive by the computer manufacturer but, if the customer so desired, a recovery disc could also have been obtained by the customer from the PC manufacturer for free or a minimal amount.

Illegally replicating software and then selling it is counterfeiting. We’ve often encouraged our customers to buy from a trusted retailer. In this case, it is disappointing that a well-known retailer created so many unwitting victims of counterfeiting.

To sum up, then, Comet has been copying Microsoft’s software without permission, and using it to sell consumers recovery discs they either don’t need, or could obtain for less money directly from their computer’s manufacturer. All in all, it looks like Microsoft has a pretty good point on this one.