Microsoft, student close to settlement

Meranda Watling

Senior bio-chemistry major Dave Zamos just wanted his money back for software he couldn’t use.

Now he’s in court battling none other than Microsoft itself, which claims Zamos committed copyright infringement and unfair competition, among other things.

Zamos, who told the Akron Beacon Journal his story, said since the story broke, he is close to reaching a settlement. Microsoft “wouldn’t have done anything if the Beacon Journal hadn’t picked it up.”

“Last week they wouldn’t talk to me,” he said. “Now they’re getting calls from media. I don’t know who all has called them, but I’ve gotten calls from all over.”

Microsoft’s lawyers referred questions to Microsoft spokeswoman Stacy Drake McCredy, who said she couldn’t comment on the case itself. However, she did confirm the company is working toward a settlement.

Zamos was slammed with the 18-page Microsoft lawsuit after selling a copy of Microsoft Windows XP Professional and Microsoft Office XP Professional, which he had obtained at an academic discount through the University of Akron’s bookstore.

When Zamos realized he would have to reformat his laptop to use the software, he tried to return the unopened packages to the bookstore. When the bookstore refused to refund his money — about $50 — he decided to recover the cost by selling it on eBay.

“I know it might sound trite,” he said, “but that $50 was something to me.”

Zamos’s copy of Office sold for $112. But when he tried to sell the Windows software, Microsoft stepped in and forced eBay to shut down the auction.

In December, almost three months after the auctions took place, Microsoft filed the lawsuit in federal court in Akron claiming Zamos committed “willful copyright infringement” and that “Microsoft has suffered, and will continue to suffer, substantial and irreparable damage to its business reputation and goodwill.”

“I don’t believe its true that I willfully did anything,” Zamos said in an e-mail. “The first auction posting, I was totally ignorant. Microsoft canceled the auction, and I then checked their Web site.”

After researching the rules for selling Microsoft software on eBay, he said he realized he was right. He sent eBay a counter notice and they reinstated the auction. The Windows software eventually sold for $91.

In response to the lawsuit filed against him, Zamos, representing himself, filed a countersuit against the company.

“I figured if I didn’t do this, they’d just go on to the next person, who wouldn’t do the research and take the time to fight it,” he said. “The lawyer basically told me they didn’t expect me to fight it.”

McCredy said Zamos was seeking more than an apology in his countersuit.

“There were other things beside that apology that we were unable to do,” she said to explain why the company didn’t just apologize.

Zamos said his countersuit basically asked Microsoft to admit it was wrong and apologize.

Microsoft has offered to drop its suit, McCredy said, but Zamos is not willing to drop his countersuit, so Microsoft can’t.

Zamos says he is willing to settle.

“Now Microsoft has actually heard about it” from the media, he said. “They’re embarrassed, and they want to settle.”

Both McCredy and Zamos said they couldn’t discuss the terms of the proposed settlement because it would be confidential.

Contact technology reporter Meranda Watling at [email protected].