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Tuesday, July 22, 2008, 04:15 pm PT (07:15 pm ET)

Second firm tests Apple's legal resolve with Mac OS X-ready PCs

Ignoring action just taken against Psystar, a new company known as Open Tech says it's making Mac OS X-compatible PCs, and believes it has found a loophole that prevents legal action from Apple.

Open Tech Inc. is following in the same vein as its now well-known predecessor and is launching two purportedly "open" PCs, the Open Tech Home budget computer and the quad-core Open Tech XT, that are effectively just custom-built Intel systems based on commonly available — and somewhat outdated — parts.

Unlike the similarly-designed Psystar Open Computer (initially OpenMac), Open Tech hopes to promise Mac compatibility while avoiding a conflict with Apple's Software License Agreement that forbids selling Mac OS X installed on non-Apple hardware.

Instead of installing Mac OS X itself or bundling a copy with the sale, this new builder is offering its customers a mystery "do-it-yourself kit" that will guide them through installing a separately-purchased copy of the Apple software. The company itself would absolve itself of responsibility and put the focus on the user.

In making claims of compatibility with the software, however, Open Tech is nonetheless still at risk of running afoul of some of the same legal roadblocks that resulted in Apple's lawsuit against Psystar last week, full details of which have since been obtained by AppleInsider.

While Apple's core complaint in the 35-page lawsuit centers around Psystar installing (and encouraging others to install) Mac OS X without permission, the legal filing also accuses the Florida-based PC assembler, now known to be founded by brothers Robert and Rudy Pedraza of Doral, Florida, of violating copyrights by simply displaying Apple's trademarks for the operating system without permission. It also charges that Psystar misrepresents Apple by falsely implying to customers that the third party has the Mac maker's blessing.

The consequences for Psystar should it lose the trial are also more serious than first thought and would serve as a warning sign for Open Tech and other firms. Besides asking for a permanent halt to sales of any of Psystar's Open Computers preloaded with Mac OS X Leopard, Apple's lawsuit also demands that the court force a recall of any systems already in customers' hands, as they 'dilute' the Apple brand by presenting it in a less than ideal way that has included breakdowns and imperfect software patches.

While it's unlikely that Open Tech has been aware of the full nature of Apple's lawsuit against its fellow vendor, the new arrival still appears to be conscious enough of potential legal challenges and is going to great lengths to conceal its actual point of origin. Prices are listed in US dollars, but the website itself is hosted on a domain belonging to the New Zealand territory of Tokelau — and the only known contact is Elijah Samaroo, whose only traces suggest either a UK Apple enthusiast who once made a comment at TUAW or else a young American from Davie, Florida running a computer service firm known as CPU Prodigy.