Two former company owners have pleaded guilty to selling counterfeit software to customers.
Alan Warren and Kevin Wall, former owners of Patchway-based AKW Computers, were both charged with offences under the Trade Marks Act 1994 after being convicted at Bristol Crown Court in September.
Following a raid on their premises by South Gloucestershire Trading Standards, over 120 pieces of counterfeit software were found including Microsoft Windows XP and Office Word.
In passing sentence, Judge Ticehurst declared that it was clear piracy is rife and that both Warren and Wall had ‘chanced their arm' in engaging in this type of activity. Despite the case put forward by the Defence Counsel, Ticehurst commented that the pair would have known they had sold fake goods.
Separately, successful settlements have been reached with a further nine computer shops, with retailers each facing court action and admitting to selling software illegally.
The action underlines Microsoft's aim to reduce the amount of counterfeit and illegal Microsoft software that is saturating the market, and potentially ending up on consumers' computers. The company has also taken down nearly 250 items from internet auction sites every week and is working with five online auction sites and shops in the UK, including Amazon and eBay, to ensure the software being sold on the sites is genuine.
Graham Arthur, anti-piracy attorney at Microsoft UK, said: “Using pirated software opens consumers up to dangers such as computer viruses and identity theft. In the UK, it's estimated that nearly one in three computer programs installed on computers are unlicensed, which puts PC users at risk of losing personal information such as bank details, or even family photo albums and music collections saved on their computers.
“Both consumers and genuine computer shops are the innocent victims in the trade of counterfeit and illegal software. Microsoft has a duty to protect consumers and also to look out for genuine businesses, who are being left out of pocket by those who attempt to dupe consumers by acting illegally.
“The action we have taken against these traders should send a message to those who look to trade unlawfully or sell counterfeit, that Microsoft will always protect customers and genuine computer firms by taking a zero tolerance approach to anyone who tries to break the law.
“It's vital we don't rest on our laurels in reducing piracy. There's still a long way to go if we are to meet our goal of significantly reducing the amount of counterfeit and illegal software currently on offer to our customers, and we now need to build on the progress we've made so far.”
Bryan Lewin, lead officer for intellectual property with the Trading Standards Institute, said: “Tackling rogue trading is a priority. We work to ensure customers are given a fair deal and aren't being ripped off when they buy goods or services. Today's news shows the dangers that consumers face by using illegal software and it's good to see that consumer protection is important to companies like Microsoft.”