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Southland Firms to Settle Software Piracy Claims

November 15, 1996|GREG MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Three Southern California companies have agreed to pay a combined $235,000 to settle software piracy claims brought by a software industry trade group.

Verteq Inc., a semiconductor manufacturer in Santa Ana, agreed to pay $150,000 to the Business Software Alliance, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that represents eight of the nation's largest software firms, including Microsoft.

Verteq had illicit copies of programs published by Autodesk, Lotus, Microsoft and Corel installed on some of the company's computers, according to Bob Kruger, vice president of enforcement for the Business Software Alliance. The investigation was prompted by a call to the organization's anti-piracy hotline.

"It was an oversight," said Keith Norby, chief executive of Verteq, a privately held company with 450 employees. "We're a rapidly growing company so the control is probably not what it should have been. We are 100% cooperative in the matter."

No suit was filed against Verteq, but the Software Alliance also said Thursday that it agreed to dismiss a lawsuit against two Los Angeles County manufacturing companies for software copyright infringement. The companies, Thermal Equipment Corp. in Torrance and Baron Blakeslee in Long Beach, agreed to pay a total of $85,000. Executives at the two companies could not be reached for comment.

All three companies also reportedly agreed to delete the unauthorized programs.

"We're trying to send the message that if you're caught, it's going to be more expensive than if you'd complied with licensing requirements in the first place," Kruger said.

The Software Alliance, founded in 1988, has filed 600 lawsuits worldwide against companies accused of pirating software. The organization said it has recovered more than $3 million in fines and penalties from California firms during the last three years.

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