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Apple Bests Psystar in Copyright Lawsuit Over Mac Clones

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

In our imagination, "All I Do is Win" plays on a loop in Apple's corporate headquarters. And why shouldn't Apple brag about its success?

Consumers whip themselves into a frenzy every time the company releases a new gadget. Last year, Apple usurped Microsoft's tech-king throne. In August, Apple unseated Exxon as the most profitable company in the world.

Apple's latest win, however, came in court, not the marketplace. Today, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for Apple a copyright lawsuit against Mac-cloner Psystar.

In April 2008, Psystar began manufacturing and selling personal computers -- originally named "OpenMac" and then renamed "Open Computers." Psystar installed an altered Mac OS X on its Open Computers, and shipped each computer with an unopened copy of Mac OS X, which Psystar purchased from Apple or third party vendors such as Amazon. The unopened copy enabled Psystar to maintain it had purchased a copy of Mac OS X for each computer it sold, but the computer actually ran on Psystar's altered Mac OS X.

Apple sued Psystar, alleging breach and induced breach of its software license agreement for Mac OS X, direct and contributory copyright infringement, trademark and trade dress infringement, and violation of state and common law unfair competition laws. Apple later amended its complaint to add a Digital Millennium Copyright Act claim arising from Psystar's circumvention of the technological protection measures employed by Apple to prevent unauthorized access to and copying of Mac OS X.

Psystar countersued, claiming that Apple was misusing its copyright in Mac OS X by requiring purchasers to run their copies only on Apple computers.

In 2009, a federal judge found that Psystar had violated Apple's copyrights, and that Apple had not misused its copyright. In a 22-page opinion, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling today, "principally because [Apple's] licensing agreement was intended to require the operating system to be used on the computer it was designed to operate, and it did not prevent others from developing their own computer or operating systems."

Once again, Apple is "winning."

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