A year after announcing a heavy crackdown on piracy in the channel, Microsoft is claiming significant success in its battle against counterfeiters.
Last year the software giant launched more than 1,000 legal cases against UK resellers caught selling illegal software.
During 2002, Microsoft's anti-piracy team investigated more than 2,200 leads in the channel.
The vendor also helped police and trading standards officers dismantle a multimillion-pound counterfeiting ring, as well as two other networks supplying illegal software to the channel.
Caroline Smith, licence compliance general manager at Microsoft, admitted that the pirates are getting better at producing illegal software.
"It is often very difficult to tell the genuine software from the counterfeit software, which is why we recommend buying from an authorised distributor to avoid future problems," she said.
Smith said that 87 per cent of the software bought as test purchases by Microsoft's piracy team had proved to be "sophisticated counterfeits".
"For every sale of pirated software, business is being taken away from genuine channel partners," she said. "The channel faces a high churn rate with firms constantly changing business models.
"We are encouraging partners to take on a software asset management strategy because it is ultimately more profitable and an area they know plenty about."
Alex Tatham, vice-president global software at Bell Microproducts, supported Microsoft's programme.
"Counterfeit software is a real concern, so it is important that everyone in the channel takes steps to protect their businesses and reassure customers," he said.
"The only real way to be sure that software is genuine and properly licensed is by sticking with authorised distributors."
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