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Microsoft lands another punch on unlawful dealer

Owner ordered to pay the vendor $3.5 million in damages and serve a jail term

Microsoft’s five-year legal wrangle with a reseller guilty of selling software sourced from the Middle East into the UK market has reached what looks to be its final chapter after its owner was this week ordered to pay the vendor $3.5 million in damages and serve a jail term.

A UK court handed down the sentence to Barry Omesuh, boss of reseller ITAC, for breaching court orders issued last March. It also ordered the sale of Omesuh’s assets to partly discharge the debt owed to Microsoft for infringing its intellectual property rights.

ITAC’s name first gained notoriety in the regional channel four years ago when Microsoft took legal action after learning the company had purchased software from the Middle East and sold it in the UK.

Microsoft classes such activity as ‘parallel importing’ and says it harms European computer traders who supply the correct regional versions of its software because they can be unfairly undercut by cheaper imports.

Back in 2006 ITAC agreed to pay Microsoft $1.4 million in compensation for trading unlawfully and pledged not to repeat its actions. However, the vendor obtained a court order last year to freeze Omesuh’s assets after the company was found to have broken the agreement. UK channel press claim the firm again sourced software from the Middle East.

In the latest case, the court ruled Omesuh tried to hide the amount of assets he owned and gave him seven custodial sentences for contempt of court. It also awarded Microsoft the power to force Omesuh to sell his properties in order to retrieve the damages owed.

Graham Arthur, anti-piracy attorney at Microsoft UK, said the case against ITAC shows the vendor will take whatever action necessary to create a level playing field for channel partners.

“We caught ITAC trading illegally more than once which shows how determined we are to protect genuine, honest businesses from being undercut by unscrupulous traders,” said Arthur. “In today’s climate we believe this is more important than ever, particularly when the culprits blatantly persist in their unlawful behaviour.”