Microsoft last week asked a federal court to let it serve a subpoena on Verizon to force the Internet provider to identify those behind a two-year scheme that allegedly activated hundreds of copies of Windows 7 illegally.
According to documents filed with a U.S. District Court in Seattle last week, the IP address 18.104.22.168 was the source of the Windows 7 product activations. But unless Verizon hands over the subscriber name or names for that address, Microsoft will not be able to find the alleged criminals.
"Microsoft seeks leave to serve a Rule 45 subpoena on Verizon Online to obtain subscriber information associated with the infringing IP address at the time of the alleged acts of infringement," Microsoft said.
The address is currently identified with Verizon FIOS, the Internet provider's broadband service.
In a complaint filed April 28, Microsoft laid out its case, naming a series of "John Does" because it had not been able to dig up the real names of the alleged culprits.
"The infringing IP address has been used to activate hundreds of copies of Windows 7," Microsoft said, using stolen or illegitimate activation keys. Some of the keys had been snatched from its supply chain, others were keys designated for OEMs but used instead by an unauthorized party, and still more were legit keys used many more times than allowed.
Product activation is one of Microsoft's primary anti-piracy technologies, and relies on the unique 25-character code assigned to each copy of the operating system. Customers and OEMs activate Windows by connecting to Microsoft's servers.
"Based on the volume and pattern of their activation activity, on information and belief, defendants appear to consist of one or more commercial entities that subsequently distributed those systems to customers who, on information and belief, were unaware they were receiving pirated software," the complaint read.
Microsoft analyzed the incoming product activations from the single source, and concluded that the "activation patterns and characteristics ... make it more likely than not that the IP address associated with the activations is an address through which pirated software is being activated."
An affidavit from a Microsoft senior paralegal claimed that the pirates had been operating for "at least the past two years."
If Microsoft can identify those responsible for the IP address, it will sue them for copyright and trademark infringement, and deceptive practices.