Is Microsoft battering China's piracy problem, or is it just another marketing ploy?

Microsoft won a copyright case against two Chinese companies, but was it because of Microsoft’s resolution to fight piracy in China, or just one of the tricks to boost sales in the country?

Microsoft recently won a case in a Beijing court against two Chinese high-tech companies for infringing the copyright of Windows, Office, and SQL Server products. Microsoft received CN¥3.18 million ($510,000) in compensation.

But one analyst believes it may be a marketing ploy in order to sell more Microsoft-branded products in the country, known to be a piracy powerhouse. 

According to Microsoft's charges, the two Chinese companies, Mainone Zhida Technology Ltd. and Mainone IT Ltd., both under the Mainone Group, had been copying, installing, and selling copyrighted Microsoft software and were asked as early as 2011 by the software giant to take actions and stop infringing its rights. 

After nine months of vain attempts to get a satisfactory response, Microsoft filed an lawsuit to a Beijing against the two companies.

"Mainone's actions were not only serious copyright infringing to Microsoft, they also put customers' safety at stake," said Microsoft China's chief legal officer Tim Cranton to a local newspaper.

Mainone, one of the biggest IT service providers to medium-small-sized companies in China, did not appeal.

Along with its steadily growing market share, Microsoft has been stepping up its efforts in fighting piracy in China for many years. After putting Hong Lei, the mastermind behind a popular modified and easy-to-install pirated version of Windows XP, behind bars, Microsoft came after several Chinese companies such as HISAP and Dazhong Insurance. 

But according to analyst Fang Xingdong, Microsoft's anti-piracy moves are not just to recoup its losses as a result of copyright infringement, the cases were part of a wider a marketing strategy in China. 

"To some outsiders, Microsoft looks like a victim to pirated softwares, but the companies got sued never stand a chance against Microsoft," Fang said. "There are millions of software developers out there, but why do we only hear from Microsoft?"

According to Fang, Microsoft's monopoly leaves the consumers with no choice to choose or to bargain but to turn to pirated softwares.

"In the last decade, almost all medium and large scale companies in China received legal letters from Microsoft. Microsoft then sent follow-up salesmen and asked the companies to pay or wait to get sued.," added Fang. "These anti-piracy moves are not to win the lawsuits, but to increase its sales."