Would-be ‘Mac cloner’ Psystar claims Apple failed to copyright Mac OS X

“Mac clone manufacturer Psystar said that Apple’s copyright suit against it should be dismissed because Apple has never filed for copyright protection for its Mac OS X operating system with the U.S. Copyright Office, according to court papers,” Paul McDougall reports for InformationWeek.

“The stunning claim, if true, could undermine Apple’s ability to restrict third parties, such as Psystar, from selling clones that run the Mac OS on generic PC hardware. InformationWeek was not immediately able to verify the claim,” McDougall reports.

“Psystar made the allegation in documents filed last week in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, as part of its response to Apple’s latest charges of copyright infringement,” McDougall reports.

“Last month, a judge rejected Psystar’s counterclaim — leading Psystar to file revised claims. Psystar is now asking the judge overseeing the case to declare Apple’s Mac OS copyrights invalid,” McDougall reports. “In court filings, Apple has said it believes Psystar is backed by a silent third party that’s presumably seeking to enter the Mac market.”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Note: MacDailyNews Reader Alan has provided a link for “Mac OS X,” filed by Apple on March 24, 2001 (the release date of Mac OS X 10.0 “Cheetah”) with the U.S. Copyright Office. See it here.


  1. Apple has a copyright by the mere act of writing something, and it is protected. However, to collect statutory damages and attorney fees ($100K per incident, I recall), they have to register the copyright.

    If Apple didn’t do that and does it now, then they would be limited to collecting actual damages and lost profit, which is a pittance.


    http://cocatalog.loc.gov/cgi-bin/Pwebrecon.cgi?v1=20&ti=1,20&Search;_Arg=Apple Computer&Search;_Code=TALL&CNT=100&PID=xoMrMnnf5XDJ1up986x1DWq4BGT&SEQ=20081222173232&SID=1

  2. @ Mark Armstrong:

    If you register your copyright, you can be entitled to additional types of damages (such as attorneys’ fees) which you would not other wise be able to collect (or which may be more difficult to collect). It also sets a specific date in time when you had the copyright.

    Without filing for a copyright, Apple has to prove when it started using the code for OS X to prove it had prior ownership than Psyster. That won’t be a problem, since the thing was on sale for years before Psyster ever came into existence.

  3. @ Regular Reader

    Actually, I would be *extremely* surprised if Microsoft were behind Psystar. The fact that you have these PC assembler companies popping up and attempting to sell OS X compatible computers is nothing but a stinging indictment of the sorry state of Windows Vista.

    Add to that the fact that stories of “Mac cloners” are garnering a significant amount of press coverage, and you have a PR nightmare for anyone trying to evangelize Windows Vista. How do you sell Vista to people, when they can see these computer makers clamoring like mad to sell OS X machines instead?

    In my opinion, it’s the larger PC hardware makers who want in on the Mac OS X action, and would be best situated to profit from everything that’s happening in this arena. (Heck, it could even be Intel, wanting to sell more boxes with their hardware inside, regardless of who designs and assembles them.)

    With Psystar, OpeniMac, Open Tech, and other similar companies springing up, the legal avenues are being tested and explored. Once there’s a loophole large enough for the bigger PC makers to squeeze through, you can bet they’ll be full steam ahead doing so. Not a bad return on providing a bit of legal funding to those companies.

    None of this benefits Microsoft though. Sure, the damage of lost profits at Apple would be something MS would root for, but widespread adoption of OS X would start to undercut Microsoft’s ubiquity, and considering that their entire business model is built on this ubiquity, I find it very difficult to believe they’d have anything to do with what Psystar is pushing for.

  4. I think this is what you say when you don’t have a case… it’s a Hail Mary looking for a crazy judge.

    Lawyers can argue anything. It doesn’t mean there’s any there there.

    I’ll wager the lawyers at Apple had a good LOL when they read that one!

    This isn’t like patent where there might be some similar prior art that invalidates it. This is simply: Did Apple write original code? Did Psystar steal it?

  5. According to a commenter on the original story, a simple search does find Apple’s registration for Leopard. (1/2008)

    Accoring to the copyright office’s website, registration is required before litigating. But registration does not affect the validity or enforceability of the copyright. Apple still has a copyright, they’d simply have to go back and register it.

    What this really looks like is boilerplate legal strategy–maximize Apple’s pain and expenses. Because Apple will have to answer the claim. Fortunately for Apple they have plenty of money and lawyers. For little guys these tactics run up the legal meters and have real consequences.

  6. I couldn’t get the above links to work, and it isn’t so simple a search “mac” not “macintosh” “text” not “computer files” etc…. a LOT of stuff is registered….

    So for any skeptics out there, here is the registration number:

    TX0006849489 / 2008-01-24

    This is just about making Apple PROVE every little element… maximizing their pain. In fact, ARE there any lawyers out there? Is this sort of claim made in EVERY copyright case?

  7. @ yet another steve

    Note the date: 2008-01-24 (the date that the copyright for Mac OS X Leopard Version 10.5 was registered–January 24, 2008).

    Psystar started up in what, 2006?

    I am not rooting for Psystar. I am just pointing out what they have apparently latched onto as the basis for their latest argument.

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