G3 OS X support suit reaches 'conditional settlement'

More than a year and a half ago MacCentral first brought readers news of law firm King & Ferlauto's class action lawsuit filed on behalf of G3 users. Now the partner in the firm that brought the case to court tells MacCentral that a conditional settlement has been reached.

King & Ferlauto alleged that Apple violated the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act by failing to support early G3-equipped Mac models with the same features and functionality afforded later systems after initially advertising that the new operating system would be "fully optimized" for G3's. DVD playback, OpenGL-based graphics acceleration and hardware-accelerated QuickTime movie playback were capabilities sacrificed by certain Mac models.

The agreement covers "Bondi Blue" and "Fruit"-colored tray-loading iMacs, several generations of Power Mac G3, older iBooks, and PowerBook G3s up to and including the "Lombard" series of bronze keyboard-equipped models. The settlement class as defined in the agreement consists of end-users in the United States who own (or owned) these machines, who purchased Mac OS X on or before May 15, 2003.

If approved by the courts, the settlement calls for Apple to offer a refund for the cost of Mac OS X -- up to US$129 -- if users agree to sign a certificate stating that they haven't regularly used and don't plan to use Mac OS X on a covered product. (Users are entitled to multiple refunds if they bought Mac OS X for multiple computers they own.) Users are also required to turn in their CDs, unless they've been destroyed or lost.

Alternately, users who feel that Mac OS X impaired their ability to run certain graphics apps, games or DVDs on covered products can instead opt for a $25 e-coupon for use at the online Apple Store, on purchases of Apple-branded hardware or software priced at $99 or more.

King & Ferlauto partner Tom Ferlauto is a Mac-using lawyer who told MacCentral at the time of the filing that he felt betrayed by Apple's development strategy. His personal involvement with the case hasn't soured him on Apple, however: Ferlauto recently bought a new iBook. "And it runs Mac OS X wonderfully," he said.

The scope of the settlement is smaller than King & Ferlauto's original suit; the firm had initially asked for the purchase price of the G3 system itself and the costs of Mac OS X 10.0 and 10.1, along with incidental and consequential damages. But Ferlauto sees the settlement -- which was modeled after another successfully executed class action against Apple -- as acceptable.

"I think this is a very good settlement," Ferlauto told MacCentral. "There's always going to be somebody who thinks the settlement's not fair or the attorney's fees are too much, but this gives people most of what they want."

Despite the fact they have a settlement agreement in hand, King & Ferlauto still have a long row to hoe before anyone will see a refund check or coupon from Apple. The settlement agreement goes before a judge on September 2, 2003 for court approval; then there's a period where class members have an opportunity to exclude themselves from the agreement. Once the judgment is signed by the courts, it becomes final, however, and then Apple will be required to take action.

The terms of the agreement require Apple to post a link from its Web site home page, take out ads in a newspaper and magazine announcing the details of the settlement, and send physical mail and e-mail to the last known addresses of registered users who affected by the settlement. Then customers affected by this will be able to stake their claims.

Apple, for its part, ultimately admitted no wrongdoing in its conditional acceptance of the settlement. "Apple has agreed to enter into this Agreement to avoid the further expense, inconvenience, and distraction of burdensome and protracted litigation," reads a portion of the settlement agreement that MacCentral obtained.

This story, "G3 OS X support suit reaches 'conditional settlement'" was originally published by PCWorld.

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