Apple Wins Lawsuit Against Clone Maker Psystar

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

Apple is celebrating after a US court ruled that Mac clone maker Psystar has violated Apple’s copyrights

Apple has won a significant ruling in its long-running copyright lawsuit against Psystar, which had been selling Mac clones (effectively PCs) loaded with Mac OS X Leopard.

In a double blow for Miami-based Psystar, US District Court Judge William Alsup has granted Apple’s request for a summary judgement, while denying Psystar’s counter claim.

“In sum, Psystar has violated Apple’s exclusive reproduction right, distribution right, and right to create derivative works. Accordingly, Apple’s motion for summary judgment on copyright infringement must be granted,” Alsup wrote in the ruling (PDF) available on the legal news blog Groklaw.

The case began back in April 2008 when Psystar began selling what it termed “open computers”. These computers had the option to be pre-installed with Mac OS X Leopard.

Apple does not allow non Mac-branded devices to run Mac operating systems. Consequently it filed a lawsuit against Psystar in July 2008, claiming that Psystar was violating its reproduction and distribution rights with Mac OS X, as well as its right to create derivative works.

Psystar countersued in November, but its claim of monopolistic practices and copyright misuse was dismissed.

Despite this, the company battled on and in December it said that Apple was prohibited from bringing action against Psystar due to a failure to register certain copyrights. It also claimed its actions did not amount to creating a derivative work because of modifications made to the source code and kernel extensions.

But it seems the judge did not agree.

“Psystar infringed Apple’s exclusive right to create derivative works of Mac OS X. It did this by replacing original files in Mac OS X with unauthorised software files. Specifically, it made three modifications: (1) replacing the Mac OS X bootloader with a different bootloader to enable an unauthorised copy of Mac OS X to run on Psystar’s computers; (2) disabling and removing Apple kernel extension files; and (3) adding non-Apple kernel extensions. These modifications enabled Mac OS X to run on a non-Apple computer. It is undisputed that Psystar made these modifications,” the judge said.

The next hearing will take place on 14 December.