Microsoft 'most counterfeited tech brand'

The software giant is the only computing brand to make the top ten of the world's most counterfeited brands

Software ranks among the most popular categories of counterfeited goods — and the Internet is only contributing to the rise in intellectual-property violations.

During the month of June, $91m (£52m) worth of entertainment media and software was counterfeited worldwide, up 13 percent from December 2004, according to research from Canada's Gieschen Consultancy.

That's second only to counterfeit 'financial instruments' — currency, cheques, credit cards, treasury bonds and money orders — which had a total value of $509m in June.

Microsoft earned the dubious honour of the top IT brand to be counterfeited, and came in second overall to Nike. The rest of the names in the top 10 were retail fashion brands such as Adidas and Prada.

Microsoft has just announced a plan to crackdown on improper Windows licensing by stopping users downloading updates unless they can prove their copy is legitimate.

The Internet is only exacerbating the problem: 13 percent of counterfeiters use spam, online auctions, retail Web sites and other Internet tools to sell or distribute their wares, Gieschen said.

File-sharing technologies such as BitTorrent also play a "significant" role in the distribution of illegal software, music, films and books, according to the consultancy.

While counterfeit software is on the rise, counterfeiting of computer hardware has declined in the past six months. In December 2004 Gieschen reported $11.4m worth of counterfeit computer equipment and supplies, compared to only two such incidents with no dollar value in June.

The US leads the world in documented intellectual-property violations with $87m in seizures and losses over the past month, followed by South Korea with a comparatively low $8m. The UK ranks fifth with $3m worth of such IP violations.