Automating Litigation (8/19/99)

Lawsuits, lawsuits everywhere! Never let it be said that Apple doesn't know how to show a copycat a good time. First they filed suit against Future Power because their E-Power system looks like its designers cloned an iMac, replaced its guts with Wintel gunk, fed it lots of fattening foods, and then beat it with an Ugly Stick™. So what did you think was going to happen when low-cost PC king eMachines quietly pushed its eOne onto Circuit City's shelves earlier this month? After all, the eOne is blue and white, translucent, roughly egg-shaped, has a handle, and looks like its creators did just what Future Power's engineers did, only without the fatty foods. (We haven't seen an eOne up close yet, but the Ugly Stick™ appears to have had a hand in this rip-off's creation, too.)

So yeah, now Apple's suing eMachines, too. (Thanks to faithful viewer Jerry O'Neil for letting us know before we stumbled upon the info ourselves.) Heck, if they didn't, then Future Power's defense would have been as simple as, "Well, those guys are doing pretty much the same thing we are. How come you didn't sue them?" A Reuters story has more on this latest move in what's practically becoming trendy at this point: legal action against companies who'd rather steal a proven design than come up with one on their own. So much for all those pundits who opined that the iMac's distinctive look wouldn't affect PC designs in the least. Instead, now every time some two-bit manufacturer decides to build an iMac clone, Apple's going to have to sue just to prevent its former suits from failing. And given the long-standing industry tradition of stealing from Apple, the lawyers in Cupertino may be in for a long year or two.

But not to fear; apparently Apple's got the whole "suing for copying the iMac's design" process down to a science. Don't believe us? Then take a gander at Apple's press release announcing the lawsuit filed against eMachines. Does it seem strangely familiar? If so, it's probably because you once read Apple's July press release announcing the Future Power suit; they're almost identical, with just the names of the companies changed. Even more interesting is how the included Steve Jobs quotes are almost the same: "There is a universe of original designs that [Future Power / eMachines] could have created for their computers, but instead they chose to copy Apple's designs. We've invested a lot of money and effort to create and market our award-winning designs, and we intend to vigorously protect them under the law." Now, there are two possibilities here. The first is that Steve Jobs has the spontaneity of a sedated Al Gore, and he really said those same exact sentences twice. The second is that Apple's legal department has a Virtual Steve that they can use to generate appropriate Steveisms, all as a part of a massive scripted litigation sequence. Ah, the magic of AppleScript! We bet the whole lawsuit-slapping procedure is performed with one double-click.

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The above scene was taken from the 8/19/99 episode:

August 19, 1999: eMachines, welcome to the jungle; prepare to litigate! Meanwhile, Seybold exhibitors qualify for half-off pricing on iMacs and Power Mac G3s directly from Apple, sparking questions as to why the folks in Cupertino are dumping hardware in a frenzy, and IBM's recent unveiling of a CHRP-based free PowerPC motherboard design has lots of people wondering about the possible return of Mac cloning...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1730: CRAZY About Low Prices! (8/19/99)   Wanna buy an iMac for $599? You're probably saying to yourself, "That's a great deal on an original 233 MHz iMac!" But what if we told you your $599 would get you your choice of Lime or Tangerine? "You mean it's a discontinued/refurbished 266 MHz model?...

  • 1731: Most Peculiar, Momma (8/19/99)   Strange days, indeed... We admit befuddlement as to just what's going on with the I and the M in the AIM PowerPC alliance. The Big M (Motorola, that is) just announced that it wants to buy out Metrowerks, the makers of CodeWarrior, the "integrated development environment of choice" for many a Mac programmer...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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