Court Rules Against Psystar, Upholds Apple's Mac OS X Restrictions

A few years ago, an upstart manufacturer named Psystar made headlines when it began offering low-end x86 systems loaded with Mac OS X. Psystar was predictably sued by Apple, but offered an EFI tool to make it easier for anyone with a 'Hackintosh' to run OS X. The company never contested Apple's charge that it had violated the company's copyrights, but instead claimed on appeal that Apple's Software License Agreement (SLA) was uneforceable.  

That argument has been rejected by a panel of judges on the 9th Circuit. Judge Schroeder wrote the opinion for the three
judge panel. Psystar's argument hinged on the idea that the Copyright Act protected Apple from unauthorized copying and distribution of OS X and didn't govern the use of the OS once copies had been lawfully purchased. Psystar legally purchased (and included) shrinkwrapped copies of OS X with its systems.

Psystar's 'Open Mac' (later Open Computers) were low-end rigs that came with OS X installed

Apple's counterclaim was that in order to show misuse, Psystar would first have to show that Apple's SLA either restricted creativity or competition. The court agreed with Apple that PsyStar was free to develop both hardware and software derivatives to OS X and that Apple was legally free to lock down its OS environment. The deck was stacked against Psystar to some extent from day one, as the initial case found that Psystar's bootloader and OS environment "did not work well on Psystar computers and was causing Apple a loss of business reputation.

“With respect to its brand, business reputation, and goodwill, Apple has put forth significant evidence, undisputed by Psystar, that its investment in and commitment to high standards of quality control and customer service would be irreparably harmed if Psystar’s illegal activities were allowed to continue."

The decision gives direct support to Apple's general practice of locking down its device ecosystems on both a hardware and software level. Any company that makes a further attempt to commercialize Apple products is likely to meet swift declaratory judgement. The court explicitly affirmed the distinction between owning and licensing a software product, and stated that as a licensee, Psystar could be held in violation.

This case hasn't changed an individual's right to purchase OS X and create a Hackintosh (or the related right to jailbreak an iPod/iPhone).

Apple requested (and was initially granted) the right to seal documents presented in the case because it claimed they contained information on "proprietary technology used to restrict access to its copyrighted Mac OS X." Apple later conceded to the appeals court that at least one of the documents in question was non-cofidential, and the appeals court responded by vacating the earlier order.