Apple must win its case against Psystar -- or else

Don Reisinger thinks Apple needs to demolish Psystar as soon as possible or face a thousand more Psystars. Is he right?

In a move that everyone was waiting for, Apple has finally sued Psystar for violating its copyright and has asked for the company's profits and a recall of all orders.

"As alleged more fully below, by misappropriating Apple's proprietary software and intellectual property for its own use, Psystar's actions harm consumers by selling to them a poor product that is advertised and promoted in a manner that falsely and unfairly implies an affiliation with Apple," Apple's suit claims. "Psystar's actions also have caused, and are causing, harm to Apple and constitute a misuse of Apple's intellectual property."

Everyone knew Apple would eventually make a move against Psystar, but I'm not too sure anyone thought the suit would feature the kind of saber rattling it does. That said, it's the smart move and one that Apple must make if it wants to get away from anything of the sort happening again.

But if it doesn't use its head and try to force Psystar to its demise, Apple will open a can of worms that it may not be able to handle so easily.

Psystar may be the only company that's willing to sell its own brand of computers with Mac OS X installed right now, but rest assured that it's not the only company that's thinking about it. In fact, I would venture to say that the vast majority of small computer companies are looking to jump on that bandwagon at any second and have waited this long because of their desire to see what happens to Psystar.

Here's how I see it going down:

If Apple gets everything it asks for and totally ruins Psystar, it will never need to worry about an unknown firm trying to sell Mac OS X again. The legal battle will be enough to send small companies packing and Apple will make Psystar just another example of what can happen to a small organization when it tries to stand up to a monster.

But if it doesn't get everything it asks for and it's forced to concede some points and the court orders Psystar to pay Apple some sort of licensing fee, Apple will have stepped on a bee's nest.

In one fell swoop, other companies will realize that they will be able to get away with selling Mac OS X on their own brand of computers and use the precedent of the Psystar case to their advantage if and when they face legal action from Apple.

In the process, these companies will crop up and start selling Mac OS X-based computers and instead of trying to deal with one company, Apple will be forced to play games with dozens.

But the story doesn't quite end there. Does Apple really know why companies actually want to sell Mac OS X? Inevitably, the company's lawyers will claim that it's due to the value of Mac OS X and its usefulness. But in reality, it has nothing to do with Mac OS X and everything to do with Apple.

Apple's policy of locking Mac OS X down to its own brand of computers has helped it sell Macs, but it hasn't won it any awards in the SME space. By only offering Mac OS X on its own computers, it's effectively blocking any and all companies out of the profit-making space and forcing them to try and sell Windows PCs.

On top of that, Apple is an extremely popular company right now that commands a lot of attention from both tech and mainstream media. Because of that success, companies like Psystar are taking notice and are trying desperately to jump on that bandwagon before it fizzles out.

So in an attempt to become a major player in a PC market that's dominated by a handful of huge companies where there simply isn't any room for small PC manufacturers, companies like Psystar are trying to find ways to capitalize on Apple's success and differentiate themselves as much as possible. And although it may not be the smartest move legally, Psystar is just the first of many that want to do that by selling Mac OS X-based machines.

Years ago, breaking into the PC business and solidifying your company in it wasn't nearly as difficult as it is today. In fact, it's practically impossible. But by selling Mac OS X-based machines, the chances of your company making some inroads are substantially higher.

And as more companies realize that, it becomes more imperative for Apple to play hardball with Psystar and try to take the company for all it's worth. If it doesn't and Psystar gets away with just a slap on the wrist, look for it to be the first of many companies that are looking to offer Mac OS X machines and Apple will be faced to deal with many more than one.

Want to know what Don is up to? Follow him on Twitter and FriendFeed.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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