A Chinese court has issued tough sentences to members of a huge software counterfeiting ring, which distributed more than US$2 billion in fake Microsoft goods, the company said.
The Shenzhen court on Wednesday sentenced 11 people to jail terms of up to six-and-a-half years for making high-quality counterfeit software that was sold in 36 countries, Microsoft said in a statement.
The sentences were the “stiffest ever meted out for intellectual property rights violations in China,” said a report on the verdicts by the popular Chinese Internet portal Sina.com.
The illegal syndicate, based in Guangdong Province, pirated versions of 19 of the company’s most popular products in at least 11 languages, Microsoft said in its statement posted on Wednesday.
Microsoft described the group as the world’s biggest software counterfeiting syndicate.
The Futian People’s Court in Shenzhen could not be reached for comment yesterday, which was a national holiday in China.
Ringleaders were arrested in July 2007 by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) after a joint investigation with the FBI.
US officials have called the joint effort a milestone in law enforcement cooperation between the two sides and Microsoft thanked them.
“Microsoft greatly appreciates the work of China’s PSB and the FBI in taking strong enforcement action against this global software counterfeiting syndicate,” David Finn, a top Microsoft anti-piracy official, said in the statement.
Copyright counterfeiting is rampant in China and a constant irritant in trade ties with the US.
Counterfeit versions of popular foreign movies, brand-name fashions and other products continue to be sold openly in China.
Washington filed a case in April 2007 at the WTO over widespread copyright piracy in China, a practice that US companies say deprives them of billions of dollars in sales each year.
In November, Chinese Assistant Commerce Minister Chong Quan (崇泉) told US industry and government officials at a gathering in Beijing that Washington must take into account its difficulties as a developing country in tackling copyright breaches.