Microsoft has filed a lawsuit against a “prolific distributor of infringing Microsoft software,” alleging that a Texas man displayed online and sold pirated Office, Windows and other products.
According to the lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Austin, Edgar E. Gamble is “the central figure in a widespread scheme to distribute infringing, pirated, and unauthorized Microsoft software and components.” The lawsuit alleges that Gamble, through a series of shell companies, sold product activation keys used to install Microsoft programs that were “decoupled” from the original software.
Court documents show that Microsoft got clued in to Gamble’s alleged “scheme” through an action it took in 2016 against a distributor of these decoupled product keys. The distributor testified that one of Gamble’s companies was among his top suppliers.
The lawsuit cites bank records showing the distributor paid one of Gamble’s companies approximately $1.5 million between May 2015 and July 2016. More than half of those funds, the distributor testified, were for decoupled product keys, primarily for Office 2013, Office 2016 and Windows 7, according to court documents.
Acting on that information, Microsoft investigators purchased pirated software from Gamble on four occasions from March 2017 to January 2018. In each instance, investigators corresponded with Gamble directly and received links to counterfeit software download sites. In some of the cases, investigators received physical certificates of authenticity that were not actually affixed to any Microsoft products.
Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In the lawsuit, Microsoft alleges Gamble’s actions broke laws related to copyright infringement, fraud, false advertising and more. In addition to damages related to the alleged fraudulent sales, the tech giant is asking the court to bar Gamble from continuing to sell unauthorized Microsoft software, product keys and certificates of authenticity. Microsoft is also seeking an order “impounding” any pirated copies of its software or other materials copyrighted by Microsoft.
In recent years, Microsoft has filed several lawsuits against individuals or groups it accused of pirating its software and products. Microsoft laid out in the lawsuit why it has cracked down on these groups lately.
Software makers like Microsoft “lose billions of dollars in annual revenue from software piracy,” according to the suit. Unauthorized software lacks quality control, which means consumers could open themselves up to security threats. And typically, these products are sold at heavily discounted prices.
“The uneven playing field hurts honest businesses trying to compete fairly,” Microsoft wrote in the lawsuit.
Here is the full complaint from Microsoft: