Psystar hires new counsel for ongoing Apple dispute

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Psystar, which had trouble paying its last legal team, has lined up new representation in its ongoing dispute with Apple. The Mac clonemaker announced that Camara & Sibley, a Houston-based law firm, will represent it in the legal battle stemming from Psystar’s move to sell PCs with Mac OS X pre-installed.

“Psystar has always been more a Cowboy than a Hippie,” the company said in a statement on its Web site announcing the move. “Now we’ve changed lawyers to better reflect who we are.”

Apple sued Psystar last year, arguing that the Miami-based company was infringing on its copyright by selling PCs loaded up with Mac OS X. Psystar contends that its OpenPC—an OS X-running PC sold at a fraction of the cost of Apple’s hardware—is perfectly legal.

“Apple’s copyright on OS X doesn’t give Apple the right to tell people what they can do with it after they buy a copy,” Psystar wrote when announcing its new legal team. “Apple can’t tell an applications developer that it can’t make a piece of Mac-compatible software. They can’t forbid Mac users from writing blogs critical of Apple. And they can’t tell us not to write kernel extensions that turn the computers we buy into Mac-compatible hardware.”

Psystar had been represented by Carr & Ferrell, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based law firm that specializes in intellectual property (and who had faced off against Apple before in a patent infringement case). But Psystar filed for bankruptcy in May, and escalating legal costs appear to have been the reason—documents from the bankruptcy proceedings indicate that Psystar owes the bulk of its outstanding debt to Carr & Ferrell. Earlier this month, Psystar said it was unable to reach a payment agreement with Carr & Ferrell.

Which brings Camara & Sibley into the picture. On its Web site, the law firm says it specializes in save-the-company litigation, which certainly applies to the Apple-Psystar dispute. Apple has asked for the court to bar Psystar from selling any more hardware with Apple software and require the clone maker to recall every OS X-installed machine its sold. That would effectively put Psystar out of business.

It’s likely that Camara & Sibley’s fees also appealed to Psystar. The law firm says it takes on most plaintiff litigation for a contingency fee, while “we handle most defense litigation and transactions not done on a success-fee basis for a flat fee or a series of flat fees.”

This isn’t Camara & Sibley’s first high-profile tech case. The firm currently represents Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the Minnesota woman facing a $1.92 million fine for illegally downloading music. Thomas-Rasset’s lawyers have asked for a new trial.

Psystar made one other announcement this week that may get under Apple’s skin. The clone maker is hosting a video ad contest, where it’s asking users to submit commercial to Psystar via YouTube. The theme for the ad contest? “I’m a Psystar.” Any resemblance to Apple’s ongoing “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign is, of course, purely coincidental.

Psystar says a new trial date in its dispute with Apple has been set for January 11, 2010.

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