The Ninth Circuit has ruled that Apple did not engage in anti-competitive “copyright misuse” by forcing users to agree, via its OS X end-user license agreement, that they only install the operating system on Apple hardware. Apple Inc. v. Psystar Corp., — F.3d —, 2011 WL 4470623 (9th Cir. September 28, 2011).
“Copyright Misuse” is a legal defense whereby an infringement defendant argues that enforcement of plaintiff’s copyright would restrain the development of competitive products. Specifically, the doctrine forbids copyright owners from attempting to use their copyrights beyond the scope of the public policy intent behind granting copyrights in the first place. As a shield, it allows defendants to secure an injunction against enforcement of a copyright until the misuse has been “purged.”
Here, defendant Psystar argued that enforcing Apple’s EULA would hinder the development of competing hardware. The Court squarely rejects this argument:
Apple’s [EULA] does not restrict competitors to develop their own software, nor does it preclude customers from using non-Apple components with Apple computers. Instead, Apple’s [EULA] merely restricts the use of Apple’s own software to its own hardware. . . .
Psystar produces its own computer hardware and it is free to develop its own computer software.
As a matter of precedence, this case illustrates the extent (and perhaps not the limit) to which developers can use copyright law to streamline brand exclusivity.
Enter your email to get started.