Mac Cloner Psystar Hires Apple-Busting Law Firm - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // IT Strategy

Mac Cloner Psystar Hires Apple-Busting Law Firm

Defending Psystar will be Carr & Ferrell, a law firm that specializes in tech industry issues such as copyright and intellectual property law.

If Apple thought it could force tiny Mac cloner Psystar, which operates out of a warehouse in a generic, Miami industrial park, to fold its tent by hitting it with a ten-count, 30-page copyright lawsuit, it thought wrong.

Court records show that Psystar has retained for its defense a high-profile, Silicon Valley law firm that has previously tangled with Apple -- and won. It's a sign that Psystar, despite its miniscule size, intends to see to its conclusion a case that could have a profound impact on the personal computer industry.

Defending Psystar in the case will be attorneys from Palo Alto-based Carr & Ferrell, which employs more than two dozen lawyers specializing in tech industry issues such as copyright and intellectual property law. Court records show that Carr & Ferrell partner Robert Yorio has been assigned to the case, along with staff attorneys Christine Watson and Colby Springer.

Yorio in 2007 won a $10 million settlement from Apple for Burst.com, which claimed that Apple had violated its streaming media patents. Yorio also helped negotiate a similar, $60 million settlement from Microsoft on behalf of Burst.com.

On its Web site, Carr & Ferrell describes itself as "a full-service law firm uniquely positioned to provide strategic intellectual property, corporate, financing and litigation services." The firm makes note of the fact that it's "located in the heart of Silicon Valley's technology and venture capital community."

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

The problem: Apple's end user license agreement expressly forbids installation or sales of its operating systems on third-party hardware -- a fact that led the company to file suit against Psystar earlier this month and demand that any systems previously sold by the company be recalled.

It's a high stakes case. If Psystar prevails, it could open the door for other PC makers, including major vendors like Dell and HP, to offer Mac clones. That in turn, could undermine Apple's entire business model -- which features Apple software locked down on Apple hardware -- while giving computer makers more leverage against Microsoft.

Court records show that Psystar plans to file a formal response to Apple's charges in mid-August.

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