Microsoft Sues “Black Market” Software Distributor for TM and Copyright Infringement

Tech giant Microsoft Corporation sued The Search People Enterprises Ltd., its principal, and ten unknown defendants over their “prolific” distribution of “black market” access devices to Microsoft software that they unlawfully advertise to consumers as genuine. The Seattle, Wash. case states claims for copyright and trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and trade dress infringement.

According to the lawsuit, the defendants instruct their customers to purchase, install, and activate copies of Microsoft software with access devices, consisting of Microsoft product activation keys and tokens. Yet, the access devices are counterfeit and “decoupled,” and unlicensed by Microsoft, the plaintiff argues.

The filing explains that they are “merely technology tools that Microsoft provides its customers and supply chain partners to access, install, and activate copies of legally licensed software.” Crucially, when disassociated from the devices they were authorized to be used, the access devices have no value, other than to “deceive unwitting consumers into acquiring copies of counterfeit and unlicensed software,” Microsoft explains of the counterfeit products.

In pursuing the civil action, Microsoft made more than two dozen “test purchases” of counterfeit software, including versions of Microsoft Office and Windows, to confirm the illegality of the products sold by the defendants on their websites SoftwareKeep, Catsoft, and others. The suit seeks a permanent injunction halting the purportedly unlawful scheme and damages for the “substantial harm” the defendants have caused. 

Microsoft is represented by Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.