The Federal Court has awarded Microsoft Australia $296,000 worth of damages following legal proceedings against Melbourne-based reseller Glostar Pty Ltd and its managing director, John Athanasiou.
Glostar traded under the name Downtown Technology Centre, not to be confused with Downtown Software, a long-standing reseller business located in the Melbourne CBD.
Microsoft had accused Mr Athanasiou, through his reseller business, of loading unlicensed Microsoft software onto personal computers sold to consumers.
The $296,000 represents the biggest amount ever awarded to Microsoft in a hard disk loading case.
The vendor said it initiated legal action after receiving 24 calls from consumers on its anti-piracy hotline between January 2001 and September 2002. Customers alleged that illegitimate copies of Windows 98, Windows ME, Office 2000 and Windows XP Home were being installed on PCs sold by Downtown Technology Centre.
Microsoft said that in 2001 it had sent two letters to the registered office of Glostar warning Mr Athanasiou about breach of copyright.
The company said that in April 2002 it had sent investigators to buy a PC from the Downtown Technology Centre. The CD was found to have been preloaded with an unauthorised copy of Windows 98, sold without the necessary documentation, license agreements, original disks and manuals.
Mr Athanasiou had never been personally contacted by Microsoft in any way other than by mail, Microsoft corporate attorney, Vanessa Hutley, said.
“We served all proceedings on the business’ registered office,” she said.
Mr Athanasiou did not appear in court, Hutley said.
The Downtown Technology Centre business is a mystery to managing director of Melbourne reseller Downtown Software, John Telitidis. He had no idea the other business existed.
Microsoft claimed the award was a significant win in the fight against software piracy.
“We take seriously our responsibility to help ensure distributors and resellers who supply products are doing so fairly and not at the expense of honest partners,” Hutley said.
She said a record number of PC buyers and other consumers were bringing piracy to the vendor’s attention. Many more impressions were also being recorded on Microsoft’s “How to Tell” Web site, indicating consumers were becoming more savvy in differentiating genuine and pirated software.