Psystar countersues Apple on antitrust grounds

Mac clone maker's expected countersuit alleges that Apple engages in restraint of free trade and unfair competition.

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Mac clone maker Psystar officially responded to Apple's copyright infringement lawsuit on Thursday by filing a countersuit that alleges anticompetitive business practices.

As expected, the 54-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, charges Apple with restraint of trade, unfair competition, and other violations of antitrust law. Miami-based Psystar, owned by Rudy Pedraza, requests that the court find Apple's end-user license agreements (EULA) void and seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

"The present litigation is more complex than the misinformed and mischaracterized allegations of copyright infringement," attorney Colby Springer, of antitrust specialists Carr & Ferrell, said in a statement. "The litigation involves the anticompetitive nature of the Apple EULA and similar anticompetitive tactics related to the misuse of Apple's copyrights."

Psystar argues that its OpenComputer product is shipped with a fully licensed, unmodified copy of Mac OS X, and that the company has simply "leveraged open source-licensed code including Apple's OS" to enable a PC to run the Mac operating system.

Pedraza said says his company is "allowing more people to take advantage of a great operating system that Apple has created at a more accessible cost than the pricey Mac."

Apple will have 30 days to respond to Psystar's countersuit and so far has declined to comment on the case.

Legal experts say Psystar faces a tough legal challenge in proving Apple has engaged in antitrust behavior by loading its software on its own hardware and thereby allegedly harming consumers and competitors. Psystar's ability to prevail on the issue of having the latitude to load Apple's OS on its own hardware, given it has a licensing agreement with the company, may prove an easier row to hoe, legal experts note.

A newcomer to the PC scene, Psystar caused a stir when it first went online selling white-box Macs earlier this year. The site went down hours after it opened for business because the company was overwhelmed with orders for the OpenComputer, originally called the OpenMac. The site went down several more times as its payment-processing company pulled its services from the Psystar site. Psystar managed to stay shrouded in a bit of mystery for a while, until intrepid gadget-blog readers joined the press in fleshing outsome details about the company.

Psystar eventually got back online with a new payment-processing service, and it continues to take orders for the OpenComputer and OpenPro Computer. When Apple finally did file suit against Psystar in July, it surprised nearly no one--except perhaps Pedraza. He said he had no contact with Apple before legal papers were filed against his company. Customarily, there is some sort of communication between companies before lawsuits are filed.

CNET News' Erica Ogg contributed to this report.