Apple, Psystar agree to dispute resolution process

The two companies have agreed to pursue a mediated settlement process before resorting to a trial, which could keep the eventual outcome of the case under seal.

Tom Krazit
Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
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Apple and Psystar have agreed to pursue a mediated settlement to their legal dispute over Psystar's Open Computers.

Psystar's Open Computer, the source of the legal dispute between the clone vendor and Apple. James Martin/CNET News

The Mac Observer turned up a court filing from earlier this month in the Apple-Psystar case noting that the two parties have agreed to participate in the Alternative Dispute Resolution process. As you may recall, Apple sued Psystar earlier this year for copyright infringement after Psystar began selling low-cost Open Computers with Mac OS X preinstalled. Psystar then countersued Apple on antitrust grounds.

ADR, as it is known, is a way to bypass the costly legal process as well as keep the outcome private, which is one of Apple's favorite words. I downloaded the document in question from the U.S. District Court of Northern California's Web site (click here for PDF), and it says that Apple and Psystar have agreed to three portions of the ADR process: non-binding arbitration, early neutral evaluation, and mediation. The parties have agreed to hold their sessions by January 31, 2009.

It's not exactly clear what Apple and Psystar are thinking with the decision to choose this path. If Apple loses the case, and Psystar is allowed to continue selling Mac OS-based Open Computers, it won't really matter if the outcome is kept private, since the availability of Open Computers will tell the tale. If Psystar is forced to stop selling Open Computers with Mac OS, we'll likewise notice that.

Psystar has never appeared to have a ton of resources to use on its behalf, despite hiring a big-time Silicon Valley law firm to represent it against Apple. So it might very well be interested in a cheaper method of resolving the dispute, especially if Apple has the upper hand. And Apple may very well not want to concede in a public courtroom that Psystar has a chance of proving its antitrust claim that the relevant market for this case is Mac OS computers, rather than just personal computers in general. That could hurt Apple in other antitrust cases it's facing regarding iTunes and the iPhone.