Volume 3, Number 13 -- April 19, 2006

Geek Squad Pirated Our Software: Winternals

Updated: July 25, 2006

by Alex Woodie

Poor taste in outerwear and a nerdy persona aren't the only offenses undertaken by the Geek Squad, according to a lawsuit filed against the IT services firm last week. Windows server toolmaker Winternals says the Best Buy subsidiary uses unlicensed copies of its tools during service calls at homes and businesses, and it wants the Geek Squad to stop it.

A day after filing the lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court in Austin, Texas, which is also Winternals hometown, the toolmaker received the temporary restraining order banning the Geek Squad from using Winternals tools, including ERD Commander 2005, a popular system repair and data recovery tool that can boot a dead computer from a CD-ROM.

In its lawsuit, Winternals claims that Best Buy and Geek Squad contacted Winternals in October 2005 to inquire about purchasing a license that would allow their employees to use Winternals' software in performing their jobs. Negotiations centered on a potential agreement that would have let Geek Squad's 12,000 employees use Winternals tools, at a cost of "several million dollars." According to Winternals, Geek Squad employees were looking forward to going legit with the tools, as they had been using them illegally for some time.

However, in February, the Best/Geek crew ended negotiations "abruptly," according to Winternals. Suspicions on the part of Winternals that the Geeks were still using its tools, despite the failure to come to a licensing agreement, turned out to be true, when Winternals caught the Geek Squad red-handed during a service call it arranged, according to reports.

Winternals has asked the court to force the Geek Squad to surrender all copies of Winternals software they possess, and to pay damages and legal fees.

UPDATE: On July 10, Winternals and Best Buy announced a resolution to their differences. As part of the settlement, the two companies entered into a three-year business relationship whereby the Geek Squad are licensed to use a variety of Winternals and Sysinternals programs, including ERD Commander. Complete terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

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Editor: Alex Woodie
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik,
Shannon O'Donnell, Timothy Prickett Morgan
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