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Apple wins permanent injunction against clone Mac maker Psystar

First on AI: Apple and Psystar concluded 17 months of litigation Tuesday when a federal judge issued a permanent injunction against the unauthorized Mac OS X hardware creator, banning it from selling hardware with Apple's operating system.

The ruling comes after both parties presented their oral arguments Monday afternoon before U.S. District Judge William Alsup. The judge banned Psystar from:

  • Copying, selling, offering to sell, distributing or creating derivative works of Mac OS X without authorization from Apple.
  • Intentionally inducing, aiding, assisting, abetting or encouraging any other person or entity to infringe Apple's copyrighted Mac OS X software.
  • Circumventing any technological measure that effectively controls access Mac OS X, including, but not limited to, the technological measure used by Apple to prevent unauthorized copying of Mac OS X on non-Apple computers.
  • Playing any part in a product intended to circumvent Apple's methods for controlling Mac OS X, such as the methods used to prevent unauthorized copying of Mac OS X on non-Apple computers.
  • Doing anything to circumvent the rights held by Apple under the Copyright Act with respect to Mac OS X.

Alsup ruled that Psystar must comply with these by midnight on Dec. 31, 2009 at the latest. The Florida corporation has been ordered to immediately begin the process and take the quickest path to compliance.

Whether those statements apply to Psystar's Rebel EFI software, a $50 application that allows certain Intel-powered PCs to run Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, remains to be seen. Apple had hoped to ban Psystar from the sale of the software and alleged that Psystar had been "trafficking in circumvention devices." From his statements, Alsup would seem inclined to agree with Apple, but the judge refused to specifically mention the software in his ruling.

Alsup said he did so because Psystar's statements to the court avoided saying specifically what Rebel EFI does, so the judge felt it was inappropriate for him to determine whether the software falls within the scope of the injunction. However, he said the company's argument that it has a right to sell and distribute the software is weak, and likely would not hold up if properly tested in court.

"Whether such a defense would be successful on the merits, or face preclusion or other hurdles, this order cannot predict," Alsup said. "What is certain, however, is that until such a motion is brought, Psystar will be selling Rebel EFI at its peril, and risks finding itself in contempt if its new venture falls within the scope of the injunction."

The writing was on the wall for Psystar in November, when the court sided with Apple on a number of summary judgment points. Alsup, at that point, concluded that Psystar infringed on the copyrights owned by Apple and was in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — a decision that was reiterated in Tuesday's injunction.

Earlier this month, Psystar and Apple entered into a partial settlement in which the company agreed to pay $2.7 million in damages. While the settlement led to the end of sales for unauthorized hardware with Mac OS X, the payout — and the fate of Rebel EFI — are likely to be decided in a separate lawsuit filed by Psystar against Apple in Florida. In that suit, Psystar has alleged that Apple engaged in "anticompetitive attempts to tie Mac OS X Snow Leopard to its Macintosh line of computers."