Thousands of resellers across the UK are facing a potential legal minefield, after distributor Blue Solutions fell victim to software pirates.
The Berkshire-based distributor, which was formed in 1997, agreed an undisclosed settlement with Microsoft last week after it was caught selling counterfeit copies of Windows 95, Office 97 Professional, Windows 98 and Office 2000 Professional.
Investigations carried out by Microsoft through its test-purchasing scheme showed that Blue Solutions had been responsible for dealing in counterfeit and unauthorised Microsoft software since 1997.
The distributor has claimed that, during the past six years, it unknowingly sold counterfeit and incorrectly licensed software through its 7,000-plus reseller network.
"Blue Solutions has been in the channel for a number of years but it still managed to get caught out by these counterfeiters," said Caroline Smith, Microsoft's UK licence compliance channel manager.
Smith said Blue Solutions has been allocated a dedicated Microsoft manager to ensure the mistake doesn't happen again.
"The counterfeit copies of our software are so good that it is difficult to tell the difference between fake and genuine, and often the pricing is no different," she said.
"We are committed to cleaning up the channel and this case highlights our ongoing efforts to level the playing field for legitimate partners by taking action against traders that deal in non-genuine software."
A director of Blue Solutions said in a statement: "We were shocked and concerned to learn that Blue Solutions had inadvertently purchased illegal Microsoft software in the past.
"Despite stringent checks and staff training, it has become apparent that some products slipped through the net, and that we have been conned by unscrupulous suppliers who we had ordered from in good faith."
Last month marked the first anniversary of Microsoft's much-publicised crackdown on piracy, during which the software giant investigated more than 2,200 leads and launched more than 1,000 legal cases against UK resellers.
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