Clone maker sues Apple, Umax

Summary:PowerTools Corp. has filed a suit for $100 million in damages against Apple Computer Inc.

PowerTools Corp. has filed a suit for $100 million in damages against Apple Computer Inc., Umax Data Systems Inc. and its subsidiary Umax Computer Corp., charging them with violating anti-trust statutes to prevent PowerTools from shipping Mac clones.

The suits, filed both in federal court in Texas and in Texas state court, allege that Apple conspired with Umax to halt the delivery of certified Mac clones from Umax to PowerTools. PowerTools, in Austin, Texas, was building high-end Mac machines using bare-bones systems it bought from Umax, then upgraded them to include the new G3 PowerPC chips.

In September, it beat Apple to the punch, shipping the first Mac OS systems featuring the next-generation PowerPC chip. PowerTools obtained its license to manufacture Mac clones from Motorola Inc. in 1996.

PowerTools claims that Umax, at Apple's prompting, reneged on its contract to ship Mac clones to PowerTools. Umax and Apple both declined comment, saying they had not yet been served with the suit.

Apple had reversed its position on clones earlier this year, when co-founder Steve Jobs returned to the company. According to the PowerTools brief, Apple "sought immediately to limit clones and once again completely control the market for its products in spite of existing licensing agreements." PowerTools is also charging Apple with publicly "disparaging" its systems.

"This is a last resort for us. We've tried to negotiate for many weeks, and we've been met with silence from Umax Data Systems and Umax Corp.," PowerTools CEO Victor Wong said in an interview.

Since Apple's sea change on licensing, there have been several lawsuits filed. In September, Exponential Technology Inc. sued Apple, claiming the computer maker wrongly canceled orders for the company's chips after Exponential had spent nearly $40 million to develop and market the technology. Exponential went under in May after Apple withdrew the contracts.

In October, after Apple bought out the license of clone maker Power Computing Corp., TCI Manufacturing Ltd. sued Power for breach of contract and fraud, claiming Power failed to compensate it for unfairly canceled orders. TCI's suit asked for $42.75 million, saying the company lost the major market for its internal power supply and encasement products.

ZDNN writer Lisa Bowman contributed to this story.

Topics: Apple, Hardware, Operating Systems, Processors

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