Apple cloner bites back with threat of antitrust suit

Apple will face legal action over its insistence that its software only run on its own hardware. A competitor, Psystar, says the restrictions may break antitrust laws.

Apple is already suing Psystar over its sales of 'clone' computers which can run Apple's operating system and software. It claims that Psystar's behaviour involves trade mark and copyright infringement.

Psystar told reporters at a press conference this week, though, that it will counter with its own law suit alleging anti-competitive practices.

It said that it will file a law suit next week which accuses Apple of illegally tying the sale of one of its products to the sale of another. It will claim that this represents unfair competition in breach of US antitrust laws.

Apple has previously faced legal action over its insistence on close ties between its software and its hardware. Though the success of the iPod music player has driven it to produce iTunes music software for non-Apple PCs, controversy has raged in Europe over iTunes' failure to interact with non-iPod devices.

The tie in became an issue in Norway, where the Ombudsman ruled the link illegal last year.

"It doesn't get any clearer than this. Fairplay is an illegal lock-in technology whose main purpose is to lock the consumers to the total package provided by Apple by blocking interoperability," Torgeir Waterhouse, senior advisor at the Consumer Council told OUT-LAW.COM at the time. "For all practical purposes this means that iTunes Music Store is trying to kill off one the most important building blocks in a well functioning digital society, interoperability, in order to boost its own profits."

Apple has also faced battles with 'clone' computer makers in the past. It even licensed its software for clone makers for a period in the 1990s but stopped that practice when company founder became chief executive for the second time in 1997.

Psystar's computers are sold with a copy of Apple's OS X operating system installed on it. That system's terms and conditions say that it is only to be used on Apple's own hardware. Its computers sell for as little as $399.