Over recent months, software titan Microsoft Corporation has filed a number of “Doe” lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.  The suits allege both copyright and trademark claims against anonymous defendants accused of efforts to activate unlicensed copies of popular Microsoft software products.

The products named in the complaints include various versions of Windows and Office suites.  The complaints further described how Microsoft uses unique “product keys” used in the installation and activation of its software by consumers:

A Microsoft product key is a 25-character alphanumeric string generated by Microsoft and provided to customers and OEMs. Generally, when customers or [Original Equipment Manufacturers] OEMs install Microsoft software on a device, they must enter a product key. Then, as part of the activation process, customers and/or OEMs voluntarily contact Microsoft’s activation servers over the Internet and transmit their product keys and other technical information about their device to the activation servers. The majority of the activations involved in this matter contacted servers that are physically located in Washington.

Using “cyberforensics,” Microsoft allegedly received and analyzed information the targeted IP addresses used in the activation of unlicensed software:

Microsoft’s cyberforensics have identified several thousand product activations originating from IP address[] (“the IP Address”), which is presently assigned to [ISP], and which, on information and belief, is being used by the Defendants in furtherance of the unlawful conduct alleged herein. A material percentage of these activations have characteristics that, on information and belief, demonstrate that Defendants are using the IP Address to activate pirated software.

The complaints go on to make claims for violations of the Copyright Act based on the unlicensed reproduction of the software products.  In addition, the complaint alleges trademark infringement arising from the infringement of Microsoft’s registered trademarks and service mark, claiming that “Defendants’ activities are likely to lead the public to conclude, incorrectly, that the infringing materials that Defendants are installing originate with or are authorized by Microsoft, thereby harming Microsoft, its licensees, and the public.”

UPDATE (5/19/17): Microsoft filed another similar lawsuit on 5/12/2017.

The suits seek declaratory relief, injunctions against the Defendants, damages, attorney’s fees and costs. The actions were filed by Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP in Seattle, Washington.  A case listing with links to complaints is below.

Parties and subscribers receiving ISP notices of these actions can contact attorney Benjamin Justus for a free consultation regarding possible options.

Filed: 02/25/2016
Case No. 2:16-cv-00276
Microsoft Corporation v. Does 1-10

Filed: 06/01/2016
Case No. 2:16-cv-00804
Microsoft Corporation v. Does 1-10

Filed: 06/01/2016
Case No. 2:16-cv-00807
Microsoft Corporation v. Does 1-10

Filed: 02/22/2017
Case No. 2:17-cv-00286
Microsoft Corporation v. Does 1-10

Filed: 05/12/2017
Case No. 2:17-cv-00747
Microsoft Corporation v. Does 1-10