Comet crashes into Microsoft disc clone claim

The software giant is suing the electronics retailer for allegedly making illegal copies of Windows recovery discs and selling them. Eeep.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012
Uh-oh – Comet’s in trooouuble. The electronics retailer has been (allegedly) busted for (allegedly) making and selling ‘tens of thousands’ of (allegedly) counterfeit recovery CDs for Microsoft’s Windows Vista and XP operating systems. Allegedly. And now Microsoft is on the warpath, saying it’s planning to (to use the technical term) sue the pants off Comet for its indiscretions. But Comet says it’s going to fight back. Which, given its financial position, is a brave decision…

According to Microsoft’s allegations, Comet made the discs (which help users recover the operating system if there’s been a serious crash) at a factory in Hampshire, and then shipped them to its 248 stores, where it sold them (separately from PCs) to customers between March 2008 and December 2009. The software giant is, understandably, livid: ‘Comet’s actions were unfair to customers’, it said today. ‘We expect better from retailers of Microsoft products.’

It looks as though Comet has admitted to making the discs, claims it didn’t infringe Microsoft’s intellectual property: a spokesperson reckons it has a ‘good defence to the claim’ and thus will ‘defend its position vigorously’ because Microsoft had stopped supplying the dics with new machines containing its software. In fact, it reckons it was acting ‘in the very best interests of its customers’. Although we’re not sure the courts will take the same view, given that it was making money off the discs (rather than giving them away out of the goodness of its own heart).

Of course, all of this will come as music to the ears of OpCapita, the investment firm that bought Comet for £2 from French owner Kesa electricals late last year. It might think its promise to pump £30m into the chain was rather hasty, given that Microsoft is not only one of its more powerful suppliers, but it also made just over £43bn last year – some of which is undoubtedly languishing in a bank account, just waiting to punish retailers that break rank…

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