Bloody battles in the courtroom: an Apple history

The Macintosh company has been ruthless about prosecuting its imitators - but now Cobalt may have turned the tables on Apple

If Apple is sued by server appliance manufacturer Cobalt, it will be the latest in a long line of legal entanglements that go back to the creation of the Mac OS.

More often than not, Apple has accused other companies of stealing its ideas, from its operating system's look and feel (Microsoft) to the distinctive, transparent, multicoloured look of its iMac (eMachines and others). But Apple has been accused itself of ripping off the idea for its operating system, the "OS 9" brand, and colour-correction software, among other disputes.

Cobalt alleges Apple copied the design of its Qube line of server appliances for the new G4 Cube. Ironically one of the first cube-shaped computers was launched by NeXT in 1988. NeXT was founded by Apple cofounder Steve Jobs, and later bought by Apple.

Here's a short guide to some of Apple's more controversial legal battles.

1985

Apple sues cofounder Steve Jobs after Jobs is ousted from the company, alleging Jobs stole employees and technology from Apple for his computer startup NeXT. Jobs' conduct, according to Apple's lawsuit, is "wanton, wilful, malicious and outrageous".

1988

Microsoft and HP are hit by an Apple suit over the look and feel of Windows and a piece of HP software called New Wave. According to a contemporary report in the San Jose Mercury News, at stake was "International Business Machines' plans to make its personal computers as easy to use as Apple's".

Critics point out that Apple's operating system, with its innovative icons, windows and mouse, is just a reverse-engineered version of software developed by Xerox' Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) and demonstrated to Apple honchos several years earlier. Xerox, however, won't get around to suing Apple for another year.

Apple loses the suit in 1992, which seems to mean that "look and feel" cannot be protected by copyright.

1989

Apple vs Apple: Apple Records, the record company created by the Beatles, sues Apple Computer for getting into the music business. According to Apple Records, the computer company violated a secret 1981 agreement that let Apple keep its fruit logo -- as long as it didn't have anything to do with music. By 1989, however, the music and PC worlds are already coming together.

The two Apples will later settle, with the computer maker paying the record company.

In December -- five years after the launch of Macintosh -- Xerox finally files its claim against Apple over the Mac OS, asking for more than $150m. It eventually loses its case for the same reasons Apple will lose its case against Microsoft and HP.

Go to Pt II/ Apple's courtroom history in the 90s

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