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7/16/2008
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Apple Demands Recall Of Psystar Mac Clones

Apple is asking a court to stop Psystar from selling unauthorized Mac clones and to recall all of the systems it has sold to customers.

Apple is asking a court to order Miami-based Psystar to stop making unauthorized Mac clones and to recall all of the systems it has sold to customers since it began offering them for public sale in April.

In a lawsuit filed against Psystar in federal court, Apple is seeking an order "requiring Psystar to recall all such products sold to the public as a result of Psystar's infringement of Apple's copyrights."

It's not immediately clear whether Psystar could legally compel its customers to return their systems. But the clones may not be of much use for long if Psystar is forced out of business and is unable to support them.

Psystar's Web site was offline as of Wednesday morning.

It's also not clear if customers would get their money back -- Apple is also seeking unspecified, but potentially significant, monetary damages from Psystar.

The suit was filed July 3 in U.S. District Court for Northern California in San Francisco before Magistrate Judge James Larson, according to court records. The parties are scheduled to meet for a case management conference on October 22.

Psystar has yet to file a formal response to Apple's allegations.

Psystar, apparently in open violation of Apple licensing rules that forbid installation of its operating systems -- including the Leopard OS -- on third-party hardware, has been selling Mac clones through its Web site since April.

In June, Psystar launched a line of Apple server clones.

Apple is charging Psystar with violating its copyrights and weakening its brand image. "By misappropriating Apple's proprietary software and intellectual property for its own use, Psystar's actions harm consumers by selling them a poor product that is advertised and promoted in a manner that falsely and unfairly implies an affiliation with Apple," the company said in its complaint.

Apple also charged Psystar with illegally copying, modifying, and redistributing some of its products. The 18-page complaint outlines a total of 10 charges against Psystar. Psystar officials did not return a call seeking comment.

Psystar in the past has claimed that its Mac clones cost about one-quarter to half of what Apple-branded systems sell for. In defense of its clones, the company has charged that Apple marks up the cost of the hardware on which its operating systems ride by as much as 80%.

One version of Psystar's Open Computer Mac clone features Apple's Leopard OS X 10.5 operating system ported onto generic PC hardware that includes an Intel Core2Duo processor at 2.66 GHz, a 250-GB hard drive, and an Nvidia GeForce 8600 GT graphics card.

The system is priced at $805. A similar, Apple-branded computer would cost at least $1,500.

The problem: Apple's end user license agreement expressly forbids installation or sales of its operating systems on third-party hardware.

Psystar was launched earlier this year by Rudy and Robert Pedraza of Miami.

In a previous interview with InformationWeek, a Psystar employee who identified himself as Robert vowed that the company would challenge Apple's ban on Mac clones and said he believed it won't stand up in court.

"What if Honda said that, after you buy their car, you could only drive it on the roads they said you could?," said Robert.

Apple is now asking a court to decide the issue.

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