Apple, Psystar Reach Partial Settlement in Mac Clone Case

Apple and Psystar reached a partial settlement on November 30 in their legal battle over whether or not the PC maker can build and sell Mac clones without permission. The partial settlement means the two companies won't face each other at trial in Northern California and reduces the likelihood of a trial in Psystar's parallel case in Florida.

Apple filed a lawsuit against Psystar in Northern California several months ago claiming the small PC maker was violating the Mac OS X end user license agreement, and that it was violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with the steps it used to install the Mac operating system on PCs. Psystar claimed that it should be allowed to build and sell PCs with Mac OS X pre-installed and that Apple is overstepping its bounds by blocking companies from selling Mac clones.

Both companies filed motions for Summary Judgement, and in November Judge William Alsup ruled in favor of Apple and against Psystar. Apple followed up by asking the court in California for a permanent injunction blocking Psystar from hacking Mac OS X, selling Mac clones, and from selling its Rebel EFI tool for installing Mac OS X on PCs.

Since the case in Norther California started before the introduction of Mac OS X 10.6, or Snow Leopard, Psystar filed its own case against Apple in Florida after the new version of the operating system shipped. According to Psystar's argument at the time, Snow Leopard should be seen as a different product and deserves its own trial.

Psystar, however, seems to have given up on trying to keep its Mac OS X 10.6 battle alive in Florida since it isn't offering a compelling argument to keep Judge Alsup from including the operating system in any injunction he issues.

"Based on its brief, Psystar really isn't contesting Apple's request for an injunction that covers all of OS X, including Snow Leopard," The Mac Observer's legal contact said. "Yes, Psystar makes a token argument, but it is neither fully briefed, cogently argued, and has no supporting case law or other legal authority."

Psystar's change of heart was apparently part of a deal with Apple. In exchange for its concessions on the potential injunction, Apple agreed to dismiss its trademark, trade-dress and state law claims, and agreed to pre-set damages for its other claims.

Psystar is still holding out on its Rebel EFI product in hopes of focusing on that product in any proceedings in Florida. Despite its arguments, Psystar may have a hard time convincing Judge Alsup to exclude Rebel EFI from any injunction.

"Psystar argues that because Rebel EFI involves the issues of whether end users have a right to to modify Mac OS X to run on non-Apple hardware, whether Rebel EFI should be enjoined is beyond the scope of the California case and, therefore, should be left to Judge Hoeveler," TMO's legal contact said. "I think that Psystar is wrong here because Judge Alsup found and held that Psystar can't traffic in circumvention technology, and can't contribute to other's act of infringing on Apple's copyright in OS X, which is exactly what Rebel EFI does."

The partial settlement and pending injunction in California make an ongoing case in Florida less likely, especially if Judge Alsup includes Rebel EFI in an injunction. What seems more likely is that Judge Hoeveler will hand the case in his court over to Judge Alsup since the issues Psystar will be arguing have already been ruled on in California.

Apple has until December 7 to respond to Psystar's arguments in the partial settlement filing.