On this page you will learn:

- What the upgrade trap is

- Publishers will focus on this

- Microsoft Upgrade Advantage

- Microsoft Software Assurance

Is the licence's history complete?
The point here is that a valid licence doesn't necessarily grant you any rights at all.

The easiest example of this is with an upgrade licence.  The upgrade may be valid in the sense that it is genuine and you own it and you can prove that.  But if it doesn't have a valid base licence to partner it, you are not entitled to use the upgrade licence.

The same is true of Microsoft's Software Assurance and other licence maintenance systems.

The problem
If you purchase, or have purchased upgrade licences at any time, they are only valid if you also have valid base licences to go with them.

It is not enough to just have the upgrade licence, you must be able to prove possession of the base licence.

The biggest issue here is that it is possible to purchase upgrades and it always has been, without having to prove that a valid base licence exists.

The argument

Many people believe that publishers and resellers shouldn't sell upgrades and maintenance unless they are valid.

To turn round to a customer at any time after the purchase and say it isn't valid many see as being wrong, but that is what happens, time and time again.

The journey can be long

The trail back to an original licence might be more than one step.  If the upgrade was preceded by another upgrade, then a base licence for the original upgrade must be kept as proof of a valid licence trail.

This is true for however many steps there are in the upgrade chain.

If that means that the original base licence was purchased ten years ago, then contractually you are required to show the original purchase from a decade ago and all interim upgrade purchases to claim today's upgrade licence as valid.

Many end user organisations have been caught out by this when software publishers have asked for proof going back to the beginning.

Microsoft Upgrade Advantage - July 2002 - The World Changed
On this date, Microsoft stopped selling a majority of their upgrades and moved to Software Assurance.

In the lead up to July '02, Microsoft pushed the sales message incredibly hard that this was the last chance to upgrade to the latest version.

Many many organisations 'took advantage' of the apparently generous offers available.

If you purchased an upgrade licence, it would include, for two years, the further right to upgrade to any new version released in that time frame - i.e. up to 2004.

It was a good offer.  It meant clearly that you were covered for some time to come and many people bought into it.

What many organisations did not appreciate in 2002 was that if they did not have proof of a base licence to go with their shiny new upgrade advantage licence, the latter was invalid.  And this was the case in 2002, 2003, 2004 and for evermore.

Software Assurance

The same is exactly the case with Software Assurance in the sense that if SA is not purchased with a valid licence at the time of purchase (there were grace periods allowed at the launch of SA) then it is invalid.

There are Microsoft customers renewing SA year after year that are worthless should Microsoft audit the organisation.  If you haven't got proof of the base licence purchase, then your SA could be invalid.

For more detail see - Microsoft's Software Assurance

What it means today?
When Microsoft or one of their resellers knock on your door to 'assist' in creating a licence position (SW Publisher audits) they often have reason to believe that an issue such as this could be the case.

And they will be very tough on this point.

Often it has meant many hours of going through purchase records (which often are not kept for longer than 6 years) trying to show that Office 97 Professional was bought in 1998 in an attempt to base the upgrade licences.

What can you do?
If your organisation has purchased any upgrade licences or software maintenance over the years, from any software publisher, you must maintain records of the corresponding base licences for as long as you wish the upgrade licence or software maintenance to be validated.

If you purchased Upgrade Advantage licences in or prior to 2002 then make sure you have valid base licences.  If you cannot find evidence of them, then look carefully at your next Microsoft purchases to ensure they are valid. 

Again we have seen many organisations that purchased Upgrade Advantage and have then continued it with Software Assurance, except that all of these purchases are invalid due to the lack of bases.

For more advice on how to handle software publishers in general see our How to handle section and A sw publisher audit

For specific advice on how to deal with Microsoft when the upgrade or SA issue arises see our How to handle section and A Microsoft audit

Finally in this section we summarise the seven causes of non-compliance in When a licence isn't...