Psystar Hit with $5K Fine for Discovery Abuse

Unauthorized Mac clone maker Psystar was slapped with a US$5,000 fine for discovery abuse, indicating the company's "guns blazin'" legal strategy may have misfired. The ruling came as part of Apple's case against the company for selling PCs with Mac OS X pre-installed.

"The $5,000.00 penalty means that judge Alsup has found that Psystar has violated the rules of discovery," an attorney familiar with this type of case told The Mac Observer. "That indicates that Psystar is in trouble with the court. However, it is impossible to determine, because the proceedings are under seal, exactly on what Judge Alsup is focusing."

The judge overseeing the case in U.S. District Court in Northern California, Judge William Alsup, also ordered supplemental briefs to be filed by Thursday, August 27 -- an indication that he likely isn't finished dealing with Psystar for its actions in the discovery process.

Apple filed its lawsuit against Psystar claiming the company was violating the Mac OS X end user licensing 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 countered that it is within its rights 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.

Judge Alsup's ruling comes after Apple filed a brief with the court alleging Psystar intentionally destroyed evidence by deleting the code it uses to install Mac OS X on generic PCs. According to Apple's brief, Psystar CEO Rudy Pedraza admitted that his company deleted the code instead of turning it over to Apple's legal team, violating a requirement to preserve evidence.

Apple asked the court to order Psystar to produce the missing code as part of its brief. It also asked for court-imposed sanctions if Psystar isn't able to produce the requested software, and for a court order requiring the company to admit to destroying the evidence along with sanctions for discovery misconduct.

If Judge Alsup's fine is related to Psystar's alleged destruction of evidence, the company could find itself in a serious legal bind with the court. "Destroying evidence could be referred to the U.S. Attorney as possible obstruction of justice and/or perjury, both of which are federal felonies," TMO's legal contact said.

Should the court follow that path, Psystar's top brass -- namely Mr. Pedraza -- could be facing criminal charges, too, and considering his company's track record in court so far, that's probably a path he doesn't want to go down.