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Apple, Inc. v. Psystar Corp., 673 F.Supp.2d 931 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (full-text).


Plaintiff Apple, Inc. (Apple) launched its Macintosh computer in 1984 and its Mac OS X operating system in 2001. Apple has manufactured an exclusive line of personal computers, including the Mac Pro, iMac, Mac mini, MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. Mac computers have been sold with Mac OS X preinstalled. Mac OS X has also been sold as a DVD so customers can upgrade their Mac computers to a more recent version of the operating system.

Defendant Psystar Corporation (Psystar) made a line of computers called Open Computers (formally known as Open Mac and OpenPro). Psystar modified Mac OS X to run on its computers and sold them to the public. Psystar first bought a copy of Mac OS X and then installed it on an Apple Mac mini. Next, Psystar copied Mac OS X from the Mac mini onto a non-Apple computer. This non-Apple computer was used as an “imaging station.” Once on the imaging station, Mac OS X was modified. Psystar then replaced the Mac OS X “bootloader.” The bootloader runs when a computer first comes on and locates and loads portions of the operating system into random access memory. Without a bootloader, Mac OS X would not operate. Psystar also disabled and/or removed Mac OS X kernel extension files and replaced them with other kernel extension files. Psystar's modifications enabled Mac OS X to run on non-Apple computers. The modified copy became the “master copy” that was used for mass reproduction and installation onto other Psystar computers.

Apple also alleges that every time Psystar turned on Psystar computers running Mac OS X, another copy was made in random access memory.

Trial Court Proceedings[]

Apple brought a copyright infringement action against Psystar, alleging that the Psystar's reproduction, modification, and distribution of Apple’s operating system software (Mac OS X) on non-Apple computers constituted copyright infringement and a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.

Apple's software license precluded customers from utilizing Apple’s software on any computer system not distributed by Apple.

Psystar claimed that Section 117 of the Copyright Act authorized it to modify the OS X software as an "essential step" in using the software on its computers. However, the court held that Psystar waived that defense because neither its answer nor interrogatory responses referred to it. Further, Psystar’s unauthorized copying of the software precluded a fair use defense. Psystar also was not protected by the first sale doctrine because that defense does not apply to unauthorized copies.

The evidence also showed as a matter of law that Psystar violated Apple's exclusive right to create derivative works because the inclusion of the copyrighted software with additions and modifications made Psystar's product an infringing derivative work. Apple also established that Psystar was liable for contributory infringement through its sale of unauthorized copies of the software to the public. The also held that there was no copyright misuse because Apple simply prohibited purchasers from using its software on Psystar’s computers.

The trial court granted Apple’s motion for summary judgment and denied Psystar’s motion. Apple’s claims remained for trial included: breach of contract, induced breach of contract, trademark infringement, trademark dilution, trade dress infringement, state unfair competition, and common law unfair competition.

In sum, the trial court held that Psystar’s production process and hard drive imaging did not qualify of fair use of Apple's operating system, it infringed Apple's exclusive right to create derivative works, Apple’s license agreement was not unduly restrictive, and Psystar’s use of decryption software to obtain access to the operating system violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).