Haider Al Hashimi was surprised to receive a copy of a statement of claim from Microsoft Corp. recently alleging a computer from his St. Laurent, Que. store was sold with unlicensed copies of Microsoft software.

His store, PC Circulation, doesn’t sell Microsoft software or install it on PCs

it builds, nor is it licenced to sell applications from the company, he said in an interview this week.

But asked why Microsoft would sue the company, Al Hashimi said “”one of the trainers”” did something by himself.

That person is no longer with the company, he said.

In the claim issued March 17 in Federal Court against the store, Al Hashimi and two employees, Microsoft alleges copies of Windows 98 Second Edition and Office 97 Pro were unlawfully copied onto the sold computer on Feb. 22.

The action is one of seven allegations of Copyright Act violations it laid in March and April against resellers in Ontario, Quebec and Alberta, the latest moves in a crack-down on piracy the company launched late last year.

It also announced this month that charges against five Windsor, Ont. resellers had been laid at the beginning of the year.

As in all the actions, Microsoft is demanding from each defendant an accounting of profits of the alleged infringement or tens of thousands of dollars in damages, plus $50,000 in punitive damages.

In the last two years the company says it has settled over 20 cases of hard disk loading in Ontario alone, getting orders restraining resellers from violating Microsoft’s copyrights.

Susan Harper, Microsoft Canada’s business development manager in charge of its anti-piracy and licencing campaign, said that its legal and publicity efforts seem to be paying off.

She said its undercover buyers who hunt for unscrupulous resellers report they are being told by sales staff that “”Microsoft is out there and looking for people doing illegal things, so there’s no way I’m going to offer you something under the table.””

Typically the buyers verify a PC has unauthorized software, then try to buy another system with illegal software before Microsoft issues a statement of claim, she said.

Publicity, in the form of press releases announcing charges have been laid, is also a weapon.

“”I would like to get out a minimum of one (release) out a week,”” she said, to let system builders know Microsoft is going after offenders.

“”We’re becoming more aggressive (in suing), putting more money behind it.””

CDN tried to contact many of resellers most recently sued. One man said he didn’t speak English. A person who answered the phone at another store who identified herself as filling in for an employee said the business was under new ownership. She didn’t know how to reach one of the persons named in the lawsuit.

Fondas Scoufaras, marketing manager of Unitech Computers of Roxboro, Que., said this week the March 15 action filed by Microsoft against him, two others and the company, had been settled last month.

“”We clarified some matters with them and it was settled,”” he said. “”We’re just waiting for a registered copy of the settlement.””

He refused to give details of the settlement, saying under the agreement they could not be divulged.

Tara James, a Microsoft lawyer involved in these cases, could not confirm a settlement had been reached.

In its claim Microsoft alleges that on or about Feb. 23 Unitech infringed Microsoft copyright by loading and selling a computer with copies of Windows XP Pro and Office 97 without authorization.

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