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iMac Clone Gets Sued 346

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the here-we-go-again dept.
Jareth writes "Remember the iMac PC made by Future Power? Apparently Apple didn't like the idea of someone making money off of their design, so they are suing for damages. The story is over at Wired. " Well, they can't win a case based upon "look & feel", but it'll be interesting to see how this turns out. Luckily, whoever invented the beige case isn't suing every computer manufacturer ever.
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iMac Clone Gets Sued

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Actually, there is pretty good legal protection for "look and feel" with respect to hardware. It's called "trade dress," and basically the rule is, if it looks similar enough to a distinctive design to potentially confuse consumers, then you're in trouble.

    Apple should have no real trouble winning on these issues; even the box these things come in looks similar.

    A pretty good article about Apple, Future Power, trade dress, etc. can be found here [zdnet.com].


    Anonymous cowards just don't want Rob to have their root password!
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The reason Apple didnt win against the Microsoft case wasn't because of "look and feel" but a loophole in a contract wich let Microsoft off the hook.
  • OK Mr Computer Guru,

    Why isnt WinNT 4 more stable than 3.51??

    How come 98 isnt more stable than 95?

    How come none of them are more stable than BSD Unix, which is older?

    8.0 and above are as stable as any of the consumer Windows releases, and probably more so for most computers. I still wouldnt run them as my server, but they do just fine for home.
  • Apple started the Personal Computer revolution and started the GUI revolution.

    Just because you dont like the iMac doesnt mean that they havent innovated consistently in their 25 plus year history.

    Imagine how different things would be if Apple hadnt been around. The PC revolution probably would have started in the mid eighties and the GUI would have been added, oh, right about now. PCs wouldnt have come to the home so soon and Linus would have made his OS for mainframes and it would have just been ported like last year.

    So before I get off my rocker too much, just dont forget what that nasty propietary company with the evil CEO has brought to the world in the last 25 years.
  • So where do you draw the line? How long can a product be considered unique until some of the product's features become common across the industry?

    When the cost of defending those features becomes higher than the cost of losing the sale to a rip-off copy.

  • Posted by Windigo The Feral (NYAR!):

    Cirby said:

    If Mercedes-Benz came out with an MB pickup truck that looked *exactly* like one of the big Dodge RAM pickups, with the minor exception of an MB logo on the hood, you can bet your ass that they'd get sued into the stone age over it.

    Actually, no, they wouldn't...you see, something like a year back Mercedes bought Chrysler Corporation, of which Dodge Trucks is a division. (Yes, the official name of the company is Daimler-Chrysler now, too.)

    Now, if Forddid a knockoff of it, on the other hand... :)

  • '73 Bug had fuel injection. I know; I had one; it sucked. Wish it had been a '72...

    --
  • Honestly, there isn't really anything innovative about the iMac... Compaq was making all-in-one Presarios about 4 years ago... And Im sure they weren't the first.

    Yeah, and Apple was making the original Macintosh in 1984 which was an all-in-one... and the TRS-80 I have is even older...

  • I don't know about cerial, but the company that makes Goldfish Crackers sued (and won) to prevent another company from marketing similar goldfish shaped crackers. I think that an "O" is just too generic a shape to sue over, but a goldfish shaped cracker, or the imac case, or the distenctive shape of a coca cola bottle, or the body of a VW Beatle would be. Then again, IANAL.
  • I suggest you look at the Chevy/GMC and Ford fullsize trunks again.

    There is very little similarity in the designs. In fact the Chevy/GMC truck has changed the least in the last two revs. The overall exterior shape of the Chevy/GMC is very much like it was in the 1986 rev.

    The Ford 150 truck went to a more rounded hood with a "hourglass waist" step behind the cab and no "bulbous fenders".

    Actually the Ford Crewcab has always been a larger trunk than the Dodge Ram. The Ram does have a larger engine than the Ford/Chevy.

    The only real rip-off in the full-size trunk industry was Ford/Dodge's copying of the Chevy/GMC "third door".
  • THis article has tons of images of the imac look-alike. It is obvious that they copied Apple down to the keyboard. I hope Apple wins.

    http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/9906/imac-rip -off.shtml [slashdot.org]
  • > there's no such thing as a fuel injected bug

    Yes there is. I don't know about the rest of the world, but in the U.S., from 75 to 79 the bug had fuel injection.

    Unless you meant to say that it didn't work well :)

    And I have a fuller post elsewhere about the trademark issues.
  • Disclaimer: I am a lawyer, but I'm probably not admitted in your jurisdiction. This is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, see a lawyer who is.

    This isn't about patent, and it isn't about copyright. Forget about those, neither apply.

    It's about trademark, and particularly, "trade dress," the appearance of the product.

    Apple does *not* need to have filed any paperwork to have this protection, at least not in Common Law countries (generally, those that speak english and otherwise inherited the british legal system). *Use* of a trademark establishes it in the markets in which it is used. The filing of a trademark simply gives notice to areas where it is not used, and prevents anyone else from acquiring a trademark after filing.

    The appearance of the iMac is distinctive. It qualifies for this protection, just as the Coca-Cola bottle (as has been noted elsewhere).

    This does *not* mean that other companies cannot have translucent cases, or egg-shaped cases, etc. But if the thing looks exactly like an iMac, it's violating apple trademarks. If it vaguely resembles it so that it only reminds the viewer of an iMac, it's likely to be O.K. Somewhere in between is a cutoff point where it's too similar, and is likely to be mistaken for the other, imply a relation, or dilute the value of the trademark.

    There's also a few links and comments in roger_ford 's comments, which deserves another couple of moderation kicks.
  • Disclaimer: I am a lawyer, but I'm probably not admitted in your jurisdiction. This is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, see a lawyer who is.

    This isn't about patent, and it isn't about copyright. Forget about those, neither apply.

    It's about trademark, and particularly, "trade dress," the appearance of the product.

    Apple does *not* need to have filed any paperwork to have this protection, at least not in Common Law countries (generally, those that speak english and otherwise inherited the british legal system). *Use* of a trademark establishes it in the markets in which it is used. The filing of a trademark simply gives notice to areas where it is not used, and prevents anyone else from acquiring a trademark after filing.

    The appearance of the iMac is distinctive. It qualifies for this protection, just as the Coca-Cola bottle (as has been noted elsewhere).

    This does *not* mean that other companies cannot have translucent cases, or egg-shaped cases, etc. But if the thing looks exactly like an iMac, it's violating apple trademarks. If it vaguely resembles it so that it only reminds the viewer of an iMac, it's likely to be O.K. Somewhere in between is a cutoff point where it's too similar, and is likely to be mistaken for the other, imply a relation, or dilute the value of the trademark.

    There's also a few links and comments in roger_ford 's comments, which deserves another couple of moderation kicks.

    hawk, esq.
  • Check out this photo instead of hunting for one:

    http://www.futurepowerusa.com/i mages/epower_big.jpg [futurepowerusa.com]

  • "would you be willing to agree that Apple shouldn't have sole patent on a colored case?"

    Of course they shouldn't - and they don't. But that is not the point.

    "Coloured case" is too generic a concept to be patented/trademarked. So is "beige box". However, you can't describe the iMac's design in such generic terms. To decribe what constitutes the iMac's design would take many pages of description or pictures (which I've heard are worth about a thousand words each). This can and should be copyrighted and protected, because it is the product of very real work and innovation.

    I think that many of those who have argued that Apple should not be able to protect its design are not alive to the huge role industrial design plays in business and in our lives. Good industrial design improves our living environment, and justly brings reward to its producers.* Sloppy industrial design, like sloppy architecture, causes a blight.

    I feel that many /. readers, who can appreciate the work and inspiration that goes into a work of art, an elegant block of code, or a beautiful GUI theme, don't apply the same appreciation to idustrial design. The iMac is not just another case, it is a masterpiece of industrial design - love it or hate it, it has become an instant classic. Why should cheap knock-off merchants be allowed to profit from the creativity of others?

    Ryano

    * Personally, I would like the designers themselves to see more of the reward than the corporation of capitalists, but I don't want to alienate too many Americans.

  • I need a new hub. A hub is a box of holes, so I'm not too particular about what I buy. If it's competitive in price, why not get a stylin' 80s-type translucent blue one? I'm all over it.
  • by Millennium (2451) on Friday July 02, 1999 @05:23AM (#1821150) Homepage
    I think Apple can win this one. I'm pretty certain they trademarked that case design (something which is perfectly within their rights; Coca-Cola did it with the classic "Coke bottle" we all know and love). In this case, both companies have violated that trademark pretty badly; have you seen pictures of these things? Exact knock-offs, right down to the little ridges on the top of the case (no Apple logos of course). They're even offering them in the same colors, though they're naming them after gemstones instead of flavors.

    I applaud Apple for this one. This isn't software, and it certainly isn't look-and-feel. It's a company trying to make money off of Apple's success with the iMac by making an inferior copy. Sorta like Windows only even more obvious.
  • by cirby (2599)
    REALLY actually, there are lawsuits like this all of the time. People like fashion designers, home furniture makers, and soft drink companies sue other all of the time for copying industrial designs.

    Just remember that the only reason Apple lost the "look and feel" lawsuit against Microsoft was because Apple had previously signed a badly-written contract with MS that basically gave away the ranch. Microsoft didn't win because of "look and feel" merits- Apple lost because of Apple's crappy lawyers in the early 1980s.

  • You're kind of going the wrong way about this if you're comparing a single stylistic item (bulbous fenders) with a complete design (the iMac).

    If Mercedes-Benz came out with an MB pickup truck that looked *exactly* like one of the big Dodge RAM pickups, with the minor exception of an MB logo on the hood, you can bet your ass that they'd get sued into the stone age over it.

    Bulging fenders are a stylistic bit on a par with the round mouse on the iMac.

    Note also that some of the trucks that you think are ripoffs of the Dodge are just different trucks made by Dodge.

  • > All companies copy each other.
    > This is true for cases, hardware, etc...

    Only if you buy cheap PC clones.

    > This is what business is about.

    False. It's only true for no-talent hacks who try to justify their low-grade thefts with "everyone else is doing it."

    > Apple is dead and will stay dead because it
    > never understood that.

    ...except that they're one of the few computer companies that's actually *gaining* in market share right now. The ones that followed your market plan are busily going down the tubes. Packard-Bell, for example. The ones that are doing well have established a market presence are are defending it as much as they can. Try starting up a computer company that ships everything in a Gateway-type "cow box" and see how well you do. Until they sue you to death.

  • The logo nameplate on the original Apple II and the Apple II Plus used "][" for the roman numeral II. The Apple IIe and IIc used "//" instead. The Apple III used "///" It was a logo and industrial design style decision.
  • I for one haven't used my floppy drive for over 6 months and I use my computer for at least 6 or more hours per day.
  • As far as the stability of MacOS, I will have to agree up to the last MacOS 7.x i used which was 7.6.1. When I installed MacOS 8.6 I noticed a far greater stability than both my NT machine at work and the many Windows 9x machines I have used.

    Be careful not to assume things.
  • Ever see the old Lear-Siegler
    ADM terminals? Both are shaped
    similarly. The only difference
    is the colors - and that isn't
    TOO different.

    The ADM's expired in the early 80s
    so any "design patents" have expired.
    I kinda wonder how valid either would
    be.

  • ``This is the sort of thing 3rd world countries have been trying to do for decades - come out with a cheap knock-off of an American made product''

    Last time I looked at the back of my brothers G3 Mac, I noticed it was mad in Taiwan.

    And I wouldn't call Daewoo a company from a 'third world country'. They own more light and heavy indutrial concerns than many people could imagine. Bought a Japanese electrical product lately? If it wasn't made in a Daewoo sub-contract factory, then it was probably shipped in a Daewoo made cargo vessel, and inloaded at the docks by a Daewoo made crane ...

    The American industrial sector is dying, and the bits that aren't are foreign owned. Look up the businesses owned by the Hanson Trust sometime - they own massive anmounts of US industrial concerns. Although they a re a strip and sell outfit, closing R'n'D and then selling the superficially successful shell of a company a year later ...


    Chris Wareham

  • Has anyone out there read the book "More Letters From A Nut"? Supposedly it was written by Jerry Seinfeld and some cohorts under the pseudonym in the subject line of this post. Essentially the book consists of incredibly absurd letters sent to legitimate entities (corporations, pro sports teams, city governments, etc.), and the replies obtained from them. Parts of it are hilarious, and one in particular is relevant.

    Ted once wrote to the Coca-Cola company that he was planning on marketing a soft drink called "Kiet Doke", the slogan for which was "it tastes nothing like Pepsi!". The original letter is a howl.

    The reply from Coca-Cola was even more telling: the happy gnomes in Atlanta wanted Ted Nancy to sign a release form, providing confirmation that he would never create a soft drink called "Kiet Doke".

    Yep, Coca-Cola had corporate pit bulls (oops, I mean, lawyers) ready to pounce on Mr. Nancy. They felt they had a legitimate case, if in fact Ted Nancy wasn't kidding. And they were probably right.

    The Apple suit is very much like this one, except that an actual product exists (vs. just a letter from a nut).

    For the record, Ted sent a letter back stating that he'd abandon the project in favor of one called "Piet Depsi" ("it tastes nothing like Coke!").
    -----

  • I agree with you there. I never said there was anything innovative or original about the design of the iMac. Non-beige computers aren't new, nor are all-in-one designs. But aside from the new PC clone, there aren't any computers that look like the iMac. And that's why Apple is suing Future Power... Future Power's computer looks almost *exactly* like an iMac.

    What are these differences that someone has mentioned? A regular mouse? A PC Keyboard? Windows running on the machine instead of the Mac OS? I can't believe any of these "differences" will be apparent to the grandmother who walks into a computer store and buys one machine for her grandson when she meant to buy the other.

    Hmmm... that may not be the best example. A computer is quite an expensive present coming from a grandparent. But you know what I mean. :-)

    Mike
  • I wonder where the line can be drawn when it comes to copyright infringement. I'm on Apple's side on this one... that new PC is a blatant rip-off of a currently unique product and Future Power shouldn't be allowed to sell something that's almost an exact cosmetic duplicate of the iMac.

    But I probably would not feel the same way in a year or two if Apple ever decided to levy a similar lawsuit after more PC manufacturers had deviated from the standard "beige" PC cases and come out with unique designs of their own, some of which would undoubtedly incorporate a few elements of the iMac without copying the appearance verbatim.

    So where do you draw the line? How long can a product be considered unique until some of the product's features become common across the industry?

    Mike
  • Nope. You either love your OS, or you use Windows.

    Of course, JWZ doesn't seem to enjoy ANY... :-)

  • I'm sorry, I disagree. A command line interface (ususually) provides information in a raw and 'unsanitized' form. A GUI tends to oversimplify at times. Granted, there is a much higher learning curve on a command line interface, but in my experience, directories and files become 'folders' and 'documents' ever so much quicker when a GUI's involved.
  • Weren't they the inventors of the "look and feel" lawsuit in the first place?

    The inventor of that type of lawsuit was a company that sued McDonalds for its Mayor McCheese character, which was said to have infringed on the look and feel of one of their own characters.

  • I just remembered that it was one of Sid and Marty Krofft's characters (Mayor Pufnstuf) which McDonalds copied. These two were also the designers of the "Banana Splits" and "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" and, of course, "H.R. Pufnstuf".
  • The iMac resembles the Lear Siegler ADM3A, other
    than the colors. The ADM3A was a distinctive
    (pretty or horrifying, depending upon your
    preference) blue shade.

    When I first saw an iMac billboard, I assumed it
    was some sort of "retro-computing" marketing
    campaign, a return to the computing of the 1970's.
  • Actually, Apple was one of the first companies to ship mainstream all in the one computers, aimed at reguluar people (Think about the Lisa, Mac Plus series, etc).

    My Mac Plus is a great compact computer, it is still sticking away.

    At anyrate, if you have seen the iMac clone PC, it is obviously not a clone. It is a hell of alot more harder to set up for one, it doesn't have a PowerPC processor, and almost all the rest of the hardware is different. You don't just spend five seconds setting up a ePower iMac Clone, you have to have to at least look once or twice at ports.

    Different shell, different componets, etc.

    Maybe it's just that I am becoming a dumb PC bigiot as I get old (although I still love my Macintosh), but I think Apple needs good hard competition.

    Just remember, we might not be using CD-ROMs, USB or RAM SIMMs, had Apple tried to sue off all clones. Personally, I think this is a case of invation veruses monopolian.....
  • Yes, E_Power Machine is very much different in specs, and how it works. Heck, Proccessor designs are totally different, as is the motherboards.

    Internally, a E_Power Machine is *NOTHING* like a iMac, only similaries inside that I can see is they both use ATAPI CD-ROMS and Hard Drives.

    (heh... Didn't Apple bring ATAPI to the Mac). ATAPI sucks compared to SCSI, but it is cheap and works okay.

    I think the main reason for the suit is over the quick look at the external appearence, it might confuse customers. That could be a bases of a *weak* lawsuit, but it would die quickly. But in general, it's a totally different machine.
  • I asked you this about the iMac clone:

    1) Where the fsck is the PowerPC G3 Processor?
    2) How come the iMac clone plastics look different?
    3) Why is the shape rounder then the iMac?
    4) Where is the AWACS sound controller?
    5) Can it natively run my favorite Mac Programs or my favorite LinuxPPC programs?
    6) I don't see any illegally ripped off Apple ROM?
    7) Ehh... How come command-option-o-f doesn't drop me into OpenFirmware when I turn on the E-Power iMac clone.

    The fact is it is not a clone. Maybe it's case looks somewhat similar to iMac cases, but it certainly not exact.
  • I was thinking about that also...

    Those iMac clones would make nice Linux consumer / low end boxes. They are cheap and look nice on the shelf.

    With the iMac being so broken in certain areas (such as OpenFirmware), the iMac clone would make installing Linux a bit easier, because you wouldn't have to mess with having to OS's just to use Linux.

    But then again, I would miss having PowerPC hardware to play with, but I think I might be able to get over it for a machine, that is mainly one for the shelf.
  • My PowerMac 4400 is put together in America. PowerPC 603ev made in America. Hard Drive made in Twian, CDROM drive, American.
  • Just look at the cars. They all look the same. (in the same category). From the side most people could not figure out exacly what car they are looking at.
  • That's funny. I seem to recall that the IIe was written "][e", but the IIc was written "//c". I think the earlier ones (plain II and II+) were actually written with I's, but I can't be sure.
  • Actually I think VW might themselves be vulnerable to a look-and-feel lawsuit from toaster manufacturers over the design of the new bug.

    JK. Actually, I think the new bug looks pretty hot... I always stare when I pass one on the freeway.

  • Define "deviating from the standard beige case". IBM made some remarkably stylish solid black computers a year or two back. I still have the keyboard from one somewhere. Okay it wasn't bright green with a translucent case, but it certainly looked unique, and it was pre-imac. The original model T was produced in "any color the customer wants, so long as it's black". Later, they diversified into bright red sports cars and psychadelic VW bugs (or the new "Volkswagen Feature"; there's no such thing as a fuel injected bug). Look-and-feel differentiation is normal for an industry. It didn't occur to most of US for the first decade or two because we're not exactly normal, are we? Rob
  • It's got the engine in the front! It costs over $20 grand! It's not a bug! It just LOOKS like one!

    Logically, it must be a feature. :P

    Rob

  • Egads, that thing is hideous. Looks like it should be sold out of the back of an unmarked white van.
  • Part of design is color, in this particular case it's also translucent color and not solid. That's one of the earmarks of iMac design. Also it's clear that it's a total ripoff, from the keyboard to the all-in-one case design

    Bullshit. If they didn't copy the case by molding theirs from a disassembled IMac, then I say screw
    Apple.

    Apple's just trying to Microsoft their way around the hardware industry by filing frivolous lawsuits that have no merit, in order to bankrupt a fledgling startup that has the potential to compete against them.


  • When I installed MacOS 8.6 I noticed a far greater stability than both my NT machine at work and the many Windows 9x machines I have used.

    You should expect that 3-4 years of design between Win95 and MacOS8.6 would turn out a more stable product...


  • From a distance, they're very difficult to tell apart.

    This, I believe, is the key. How many people buy computers from a distance? If it's obvious when you get close or use the machine, I don't believe Apple has a case. And it will be because the OS is Windows. And there's a floppy drive.

  • Yep, Coca-Cola had corporate pit bulls (oops, I mean, lawyers) ready to pounce on Mr. Nancy. They felt they had a legitimate case, if in fact Ted Nancy wasn't kidding. And they were probably right.

    The big difference here is that in the US, trademark owners need to agressively defend their trademarks, or they lose them. As far as I know, the look & feel of the Imac box (one I personally find to be very dis-functional) has not been trademarked. If it has, like the Diet Coke(tm) Trademark, or the Coke Bottle(tm) trademark, or What-the-hell-else(tm) trademark, then Apple would have a much stronger case. If they are really relying on the external design to sell their machines, then they should have trademarked the design. As it is all they have is a kistchy design around some over-priced hardware, and they (as far as I know) chose not to defend their only selling point (translucent, dis-functional, all-in-one-with-no-floppy-drive case) with a proper registered trademark. Fools. Gonna throw away their second shot at world domination.
  • Um...

    You *can* win on a look-and-feel basis, if you're talking about the look-and-feel of something material, and you've got a design patent for it. That's sorta what design patents are *for*.

    Does Apple have a design patent on the iMac?
  • I agree with your point about a computer's case, but I thought I'd point out that there are far more than just a tiny number of ways to implement a GUI. It's just that very few of them have become mainstream. When I worked at Apple, I saw several cool GUI innovations that came out of ATG but never made it into a product.

    Regarding the GUI lawsuit -- Apple's lawyers should have made it clear how much time and money Apple invested the development of their GUI, only to have others copy it. (For those who still think Apple did the same to Xerox, I paraphrase Woz: "Apple made a deal with Xerox involving stock, while Microsoft merely copied them.")
  • Its no longer possible to sell any hardware based on 'what it can do' alone. You've probably seen those Intel-based PC commercial that shows full-motion, high res video from some non-existant game or an imaginary Internet. It isn't about what computers can do, its about what you can convince people they can do. If this ePower machine gets to market, the company will likely try to market it as 'just as good as the iMac' when its just not true. Apple doesn't just make pretty enclosures. Their machines have high quality parts throughout: I guarantee that the speakers and monitor on this ePower won't be half as good as the iMacs. Apple is doing anything essentially different from other PC companies in advertising, they're just changing the way its done (again :). The design of the iMac isn't justu about esthetics, it is a complete industrial design. Those ridges on the top help with heat dissipation, and the handle on the back (not included on the ePower) becomes pretty useful at times. Unfortunately for Apple, the ignorant masses usually just don't realize the differences. They want to buy their computer based on how they buy a living room recliner: "Hey, these both look fine on the outside, but this one's $300 cheaper!"
  • If I were a computer manufacturer, I'd try and sell my systems for what they could do, not what they looked like; the aesthetics would be just a side note. Now, Apple is suing this company based on their PC case. It almost sounds as if Apple has succumbed to this, selling boxen merely from an aesthetic perspective.

    I mean, sure, if I could afford one, I'd have an iMac, but not particularly for the case, as much as the platform that would allow me to install PPC.

    If Apple has directed their marketing towards selling computers based on appearance (let's hope not), they've got more problems to worry about than cheap lookalikes.
  • Windows is quite obviously a steal of X11

    So where are my networked graphics? :-)

    If memory serves, Microsoft were members of the Open Software Foundation, and contributed to Motif's design - that's why they are so alike. But whether the Windows 3.0 look came before Motif 1.0, I cannot remember.

  • The first comment I agree with!!

    This is a gross violation of Apple's IP. Apple HAS to sue or their shareholders (me included) would go insane...

    If you can look at the E_Power and really say that there is no iMac rip-off in there, you are smoking some seriously strong crack.

    Apple spent millions of dollars developing this idea and now this knock off company re-wraps it? Totally unacceptable.
  • There is much more to the iMac than an all-in-one case design.

    Everyone seems to be missing this point... It's not like Apple was the first one to do an all-in-one (or like the iMac was their first AIO, look at all the classic Macs and the G3 AIO)!

    The iMac represented a computer that was designed from the start to be easy to use for anyone. Literally anyone could setup an iMac in about 5 minutes flat.

    It also represented an attempt to make the computer a more fashionable accesory in the home, not just a beige box with wires everywhere...
  • Parts of the production process of the iMac ARE patented, including the way the plastics are colored.
  • They're called "shareholders" and they scream for blood when you don't sue if this sort of thing happens...

    Hmmmm... Red Hat will soon have shareholders. Wonder what they will make Bob Young do...
  • Something like 30% of iMacs sold are to new computer users.

    15-20% are to Wintel converts.

    I'd say half of their sales means competition.
  • They did get everyone's permission.
  • For me there is a difference between designing another computer with the same goal and ripping off someone else's idea down to the plastic color.

    I don't see why consumers would see this in a bad light. I resent it when others in my office rip off my work and put their name on it...
  • If this flies I am going out and start my own web site, and call it Slashdit, complete with exact copies of the page layout, news stories and everything.

    And there would be nothing wrong with that. If you read the fine print, Rob's open sourced ('scusí if I got the wrong term in here, been a while since I read the fine print) this site and you are free to do that. Go to old articles and search for Fishdot. That's right Fishdot!

    I forget the exact address, so I'm not linking there. But the point is, I can modify two lines of code for the GIMP and release it cause the license says so.

    Coca-Cola would have a lawsuit, because they own the trademark to the curvy bottle and the red button with the curvy bottle on it. Apple might or might not have trademarked the look of iMac, but more than likely if the paper is in the system, then they've got this one in the bag.

    Now, back to Slashdit... If you do make it, at least have the decency to host it on a server that can handle the traffic, because I have a feeling that Slashdot can always handle another mirror. And it would be a damn shame if Slashdit was always down because it couldn't handle the load.

  • "As for the "windows enthusiast", I didn't know such a beast existed. Can anyone confim or deny this for me?"

    As someone who actually makes a living as an NT administrator (and yes, I can use all the sympathy you kind /.'ers throw my way), my opinion is that the only "windows enthusiasts' out there are people who've never used _anything_ else and people who only do gaming.

    In any case, I think Apple will easily win the suit; the EPower box is so similar as to be easily mistaken for an iMac from any distance, and Apple does have a patent on the case design.

    --I love Micro$oft's OSes; they're so badly broken that I'll never want for work...--

  • Actually, old IBM Selectric typewriters came in a wide variety of interesting colors like dark blue, dark red, and dark black. (None of these fruity iMac colors!). These sold pretty well, so perhaps there's a pent up demand for non-beige.

    On the other hand, I got a free IBM monitor and keyboard because they were black and someone thought they clashed.

    --
  • why dont anyone make clear cases for laptops? or laptops that look fly instead of the grey or black un-imaginative crap that we are stuck with??
    how about a clear or purple replacement case for my Toshiba 430CDT (OMG!! you're using a pre MMX pentium??? you must SUCK!) it runs Linux perfectly, NT, NTserver (I know I desecrated it with that install) and looks crappy because of the ugly grey... not only CEO's own laptops... some of us coders and hackers use only laptops! when you dash away from the phone booth fleeing you need to look hip! (translucent green... oooooohhh yeah!)

    anyone know of any replacement laptop case companies?
  • "... use 'chicklet' keys (remember the Atari 400)..."

    Remember the PCjr? Remember that keyboard?

    My first computer, an Atari 400. My second computer, a PCjr.
    It made me long for the plush ergonomy of the Atari 400.
  • I won't pretend to have compared specs between the machines, but the newest iMacs cost ~$1200, but the rev. B 233 mHz iMacs are selling at or below $900. My guess is that the cheaper iMac is a lot closer to this "knock-off" which sells for around $800 (IIRC).
  • This is true. I upgraded the keyboard, and put a Racore expansion module on top so I would have a second floppy. (360k x 2 !)

    It looked like two computers humping, but we used it for years.
  • Apple do like to protect their intellectual property, don't they? Remember when GEM was sued for looking too Apple-like?

    I also don't remember Commodore suing the company that made a 486 PC in an Amiga 1200-style case. Now that's a machine I would like very much to own.

    "I want to use software that doesn't suck." - ESR
    "All software that isn't free sucks." - RMS

  • IIRC, I believe that's why the EMACS maintainers won't port it to Macintosh.

    This used to be true, but GNU have since relaxed their stance. Given that Apple are now just another UNIX manufacturer and are trying to pick up the whole Open Source (bletch) idea, I don't think they're too worried any more.

    "I want to use software that doesn't suck." - ESR
    "All software that isn't free sucks." - RMS

  • Here's an idea: instead of relying on shiny plastic to sell your product, what about perhaps including cool technology that copycats CAN'T beat?

    They do this. How do you think they sell computers to people like me, who care more about what's in the computer than what it looks like?

    The point is, the people who are most likely to be buying an iMac care more about the colorful plastic than any technology it contains that may be considered "cool." Ever start talking to a non-techie about the virtues of Linux and have their eyes glaze over? If not, try it sometime, it's kinda neat.

    Apple does innovate technology, and in a big way, but most people don't care. For those of us who do, Microsoft will probably steal it anyway, but they never quite seem to get it right.
  • When you say "iMac clones," do you mean computers in colorful translucent plastic? If so, that's ok, nothing illegal there. What Apple's mad about is that the computer mentioned in this article looks almost exactly like the iMac. From a distance, they're very difficult to tell apart.
  • Apple sells what the customer will buy. The runaway sales of the iMac prove that the consumer is at least as influenced by aesthetics as by "real" features when buying a computer. Macs as powerful as the iMac and not too much more expensive were available before its introduction, but those never sold nearly as well.

    Of course, the iMac is not Apple's only product, they also have a complete line of professional G3s, and using those is a real power trip.
  • Everyone is so emotional because the kid next door got a new bike a few weeks after you got yours. I hope Apple fails.

    Why?

    1. The colors (copying the multicolor options)
    Colors are not subject to patent. So some people are unhappy with their lack of originality. Fine -hold a grudge.

    2. The case (is this a pun? :)
    I have seen IBM PCs that were consisting of the same visual composure, the only difference being the square case hidden away by a long cable. The FUNCTION is remarkably similar, everything you need being right in front of you as part of the monitor. I have a slimtop PC that has a monitor on it. Looks similar to an iMac from far away, except for the colors (and when you get close you see the monitor is square and couldn't be an iMac). If you break it into a function of it's usability I can also think of one or two computers (non-apple) that are one piece, no additional parts, integrated monitor systems. Think of the integrated Intel and Sony systems that are also changing from prototypes to reality.
    Point being that the ornamentation of an integrated computer is NOT something that should be covered by the iMac patent. The FUNCTION of the system is not unique.

    So you go basically to a question of style in function. Looks. Exact look and feel. Ignore the colors. Think black and white if you like.

    The EPower does look similar but is NOT an exact copy. I actually like the EPower look better than the iMac. It has it's own base/stand. It has a floppy. The external parts are not interchangeable with an iMac.

    If someone were coping watches from a famous manufacturer for the explicit purpose of pretending to be that brand and sell based on the brands quality name it would be deliberate deceit and should quite rightly be illegal. If they made their own similar watch, with their own name, and did not copy the PATENTED FUNCTIONALITY of their competitors watch (like a barometer in the watch perhaps?) then they are simply selling to the same market. If they used the same watch face fonts and colors one could argue they were trying to confuse the customers. As long as they don't pretend to be the opposing brand, they just lack originality.

    One of the reasons the iMac was able to exist is that Apple could create the system and be assured of its perception as a functional choice. The MacOS users don't expect more. Who else besides Apple makes MacOS compatibles?
    The PC industry has been avoiding cut down systems. It is (was?) untested to provide an X86 system that has little to no compatibility for expansion or used a new motherboard design with one slot. That is exactly what the EPower is - one step past a NLX motherboard. Sony started this idea and Daewoo is just trying to ride the wave.

    And here is the best reason I can think of for wanting Apple to fail: I want one of these systems. I can't and wouldn't want to get it from Apple. I have money waiting to be spent on one of these systems when they hit the market and do not care how many people complain about its lack of originality. Daewoo is dead on with this one. I hope they have much success and spawn copycat system, which will then begin to innovate and differentiate themselves outside of the old system computability rules.
  • I sit corrected. Let me thank you for enlightening me. However would you be willing to agree that Apple shouldn't have sole patent on a colored case?
  • #define SARCASM TRUE

    Computer Companies can't inovate because the government doesn't let them. Every time a company inovates, be it integrating a web browser directly into the operating system, inventing the WIMP interface, the mouse, the internet, and multimedia, or creating valuable new productivity and educational paradigms, the government swoops in and calls it 'anti-trust' or 'a monopoly'.

    HOGWASH! If you want better inovation - write the government and tell them to stop persecuting inovators like Bill Gates and Microsoft - the leading inovators of some of the most poserful computer systems around (see the recent benchmarks [alfred.edu]). After all, the free market system, the greatest economic system ever, has valued Bill at more money than all of the people who came before him. Who are you to compain?

  • Good question. Here's my ideas on how to make a computer that is cheaper looking than an iMac (making a computer feel cheaper than an iMac is easy -- just get a 'doze box)

    • Replace the Fisher-Price plastic with cardboard. (But make the cardboard white and include some crayons with it, so that users can choose whatever color they want.)
    • Sell it using a late-night infomercial
    • Have the keyboard be built into the main unit, not detachable
    • Have the keyboard use "chicklet" keys (remember the Atari 400?) instead of moving keys
    • Put a hand-crank on the side, and eliminate the AC power cord
    • Lower the size of the monitor to about 9" diagonal, and make it monochrome
    • Put a "Designed For Windows 98" sticker on it
    Any other ideas on how to make the worst-looking computer?
  • Jobs must'a been tripping when he nixed that one.

    Yes and no. It's a good thing for computers to have some kind of removable read/write storage, but floppies are obsolete. If the iMac included a floppy drive, no one would use it anyway. Something bigger and faster, though, like a Zip/Jaz/Syquest/etc would be good though, if you're moving files around using sneakernet.

    What they really ought to do is replace the CD-ROM drive with CDRW, so they can keep the same form-factor. That would be pretty cool.

  • Beware: according to the ad, it comes with Windoze 98. Even if you wipe it, you'll still be paying for it and go into the sales statistics as Yet Another satisfied Microsoft customer.

    I'm sure there will be plenty of x86 iMac-lookalikes. Why not buy one from a company that cares about its customers (lets you choose whether or not to buy a Windoze license) instead?

  • I use floppies on almost a daily basis (even though I have a Zip drive).

    Why? (My guess is that it's because you're interchanging data with another machine(s) that don't have Zip drives, or due to some other legacy-related concern.) Don't tell me you actually prefer slow 1.5 Meg media over fast 100 Meg media...

    In any case, I really can't see how anybody can claim that the *removal* of a standard and virtually free piece of hardware is innovation.

    Oh, I don't think anyone's claiming there was anything innovative about removing the floppy (watch, some Apple nut will prove me wrong) but nevertheless, it's a way to reduce the cost and the size of the machine a little bit, in a way where the advantages (subjectively I guess) outweigh the disadvantages. Jobs wasn't "tripping" when it was decided to omit it.

    The mouse is pretty old technology too, but no computer maker would try to sell a computer without a mouse with the hopes, like Apple's, that there would be USB replacements in no time.

    Obviously. But selling a computer (particularly a Mac) without a mouse would be pretty crippling. Selling it without a floppy drive isn't. All Mac users use their mice, but what fraction of Mac users (or even computer users in general) use their floppy drives? Mice are old, but not obsolete. Floppies are old and obsolete.

    In regard to people using the 'Net for temporary storage ... ok, you got me. Some people obviously do have a need for some kind of removable storage. But I think that among that section of the population, floppies often aren't the best answer (and I agree that the 'Net isn't either).

  • In the case of Microsoft and Apple several years ago, Apple lost not because of "look and feel issues" but because then-CEO John Sculley signed a deal with MS saying that MS was allowed to copy certain features of the Mac's GUI in exchange for something or other (I forgot the details). The Apple legal team was unaware of this document and went ahead with the lawsuit against MS. It was because of this document that they lost, and not because of "look and feel" issues.

    According to law, a company can sue if the look of the original "communicates an idea" and if the defendant's product attempts to confuse the brand identity of this "idea." In other words, having an egg-shaped case with a white front, translucent colored back and white bottom half makes you think "It's an iMac." If the E-Power's plastics cause brand confusion, then Apple might have a case. Gucci won a similar lawsuit against a company that was putting a big golden "G" on the faces of its watches (which I'm assuming only Gucci did). Their argument was that the imitators were causing brand confusion by imitating the Gucci "G," which had become a brand identifier. Apple might have a case itself this time.
  • What I'm wondering about is the translucent blue 4-port hub (not making this up). Who is this supposed to appeal to? The average consumer doesn't know what a hub is. Most people who do aren't going to be impressed by the translucent nature.
  • I used to be one too...

    I'm not any more, and I'd delete windows if there were more Linux games! (probably getting Civ:CTP, definitely RRT2 - thanks Loki!)
  • All companies copy each other. This is true for cases, hardware, etc...
    All cars look the same now.
    This is what business is about. Apple is dead and will stay dead because it never understood that.

    The basic principle is be the best value/preformance/price.

    All they ever did was : we do everything from floppy to cables to software to hardware.

    Well let them keep their piece of crap.

    I'd never buy an IMac. It's like I bought one of the first Korean cars or appliances (NOW Korea does a lot of nifty things). It looks good and has a lot of gadgets but is filled with CRAP!
  • At least by example. Consider breakfast cereal-- just this morning I had some Toasy-O's in a big yellow rip-off cheerios box. I have a box of Corn Bursts (corn pops anybody?) that's getting a little stale, too. Same product. Nearly the same package. Fifty different companies, and nobody's getting sued. I think that a look-and-feel lawsuit, however justified, is on shaky ground with our legal system.
  • I have to concede this one to you, Mr. Coward! I hadn't thought that all the way through. Suppose either nobody's tried to sue because it's not cost-effective-- that doesn't make it legal. Also, I could be eating cereal from the same company in a different box. They could be counting on 'perceived quality' to drive the branded type, or just putting all the crappy o's in the generic box.

    MMmmmmmMmmm.... cereal!
  • I think Apple should be spending time porting MacOS instead of squabbling over their different-thinking plastic casing.

    I'm guessing you've never actually _created_ anything, have you?

    If you want a /. metaphor, imagine someone taking slashdot.com or slashdot.net (or whatever TLD) and then doing a near-exact copy of slashdot.org. Sure, people who know better will go to slashdot.org, but a lot of people won't. What happens to the ad rates for /. when people start going to slashdot.com? I'll give you a hint: they ain't going up.

    The VALUE of the name "SlashDot" came from all of the hard work put in on this site. If someone else appropriates that name for a knock-off, it should be (and is) illegal.

    Now, considering how much money and effort Apple has put into the iMac brand (which includes its distinctive look), anyone who tries to ride off of it is breaking the law. It's that simple.

    -jon

  • You're refering of course to the quality of the American-made Apple "NapalmBook"?

    Sigh. Here we go again...

    I used to keep the FAQ on Apple PowerBooks, and what happened with the PowerBook 5300 has been distorted beyond belief. Here are the FACTS:

    1. Apple was going to ship the 5300 with a LiIon battery (this was in 1995, much earlier than most PC companies shipped with a LiIon).

    2. Two 5300s _at Apple_ caught on fire, due to problems with the LiIon battery. No consumer ever got a "flaming PowerBook."

    3. Rather than wait for a long time to figure out what went wrong, Apple released the 5300's with the NiMH battery for the PowerBook 190 (which used the same form factor). Apple also knocked $100 off the price of the 5300s.

    4. Eventually, Apple figured out that it was the SONY battery which had a problem, not the Apple PowerBook. This problem was fixed for the PowerBook 3400 (which used a very similar form factor to the 5300s) and later PowerBooks.

    It was the quality of the Japanese-made battery which made the PowerBook catch fire. Before you start nationalistic rantings, at least get your facts straight.

    -jon

  • Why is it that all PC companies can do is copy Apple? Why can't they come out with their own innovative designs and add something to the progress of the industry? This sort of blatant rip off is absurd. They can't even come up with their own color for crissakes.

    Seriously, this is a slam dunk for Apple. You cannot just go around copying designs for consumer products like this - they are protected by both patent and trademark laws out the wazzoo. What these guys are doing is equivalent to releasing a cola drink in a coke bottle shaped clone and calling it Cokee-Coola. Can you imagine how quickly Coca-Cola Inc. would be on their case?

    If this flies I am going out and start my own web site, and call it Slashdit, complete with exact copies of the page layout, news stories and everything.

  • Do you think Mercedes-Benz would sue Ford if they developed a sports car that looked exactly like the Mercedes-Benz SLK? Of course they would.

    If you read the article, Future Powers claims the egg design has "the most natural design to ensure the smallest footprint." This is not true at all. Gateway's Profile XL [gateway.com] is flat-panel system that has a smaller footprint than the iMac and I am sure that other OEM have similiar flat-panel system as well.

    Not only will Future Powers machine have the iMac design, it will be sold in FIVE different colors, exactly the same FIVE colors as the iMac.

    I wonder if Future Powers machine has a round mouse too?

    Here's an article [zdnet.com] with a side-by-side photograph of the machines.

    #####
  • Ever see the old Lear-Siegler ADM terminals?

    My university had quite a few of those. Not unusual in itself, until you consider that I graduated last year. Those terminals are probably still in use. Cutting-edge technology or what? :-) What "computer science budget"?

  • Apple ][ was the first beige computer that was mass-produced for the consumer market.

    Just out of interest: I often see "Apple II" written "Apple ][" or (less frequently) "Apple //". "Apple ][" seems to be much more common than "Apple II". Why is this? Who started it?

  • Give Apple a break, eh? This sort of lawsuit is fairly common, more than likely the angle they'll take invovles trademark dilution. Like if Pepsi decided to give their bottle curves just like Coke's.
    The fact is, Apple has [again] made a name for themselves; for many people, solely based on the iMac. It's unfair (and probably illegal) for someone else to make some $ off Apple's hard work, marketing, and perseverence.
    There are probably an infinite number of possible case designs, and thus an infinite number cooler and better than the iMac -- I guess it's just easier to copy Apple's and wait until their next case to make a new 'breakthrough'.
  • Look at it! Why would anyone put the numeric keypad on the LEFT side of the keyboard?!

    /* Yes, I know it's a reversed photo. I'm just being silly. */
  • I noticed that you mention using ProTools on MacOS, but that you use BeOS. Is there something that compares to ProTools available for BeOS?

    I'm not really interested in the usual "make your home computer an entertainment center" software. I need something that does real multitrack recording/mixing/editing. Think ProTools, Sound Forge, or Emagic Logic -- stuff you would find in a studio.

    Ideally, it would also work with a digital-only soundcard. Soundblasters just don't cut it. :)

    This is not any sort of troll. I would get REAL interested in BeOS if something like that was available. Thanks.
  • IANAL, but....
    Read the article cited previously by Xenu. (http://www.fryberger.com/colors.html) If J. Average Consumer were to look at the PC, would they say that it was a brand new PC, or would they say "oh, it's one of them iMacs, gosh aren't they great/awful/cute/ugly?" Seems to me like there is precedent for this sort of thing, whether or not one likes Apple. There is a similay situation with not only the hourglass - shaped coke bottles, but also the word "coke." The Coca Cola company (among others) is very protective of the work Coke. They go as far as to hire people to go to restraunts and ask for "coke," then take samples of the beverage they are served. If it is in fact Coca Cola, fine. If it is Pepsi or some generic cola, they will go as far as taking the beverage serving establishment to court. They do this because there is a long standing precedent for protected trade names being allowed to keep their protection, and undefended trade names that get accepted as the common name for any item of the same type (eg, xerox rather than any old copier, kleenex rather than generic tissue, coke rather than generic cola beverage) can no longer be protected trade names. Has anyone else seen the latest batch of TV ads for Band-Aid brand bandages? That's exactly how they refer to them in the ad for the very same reason. Apple is merely doing the same thing with the visual cues of the iMac. After all, Intel came out with a whole slew of non-beige, non-cubic cases, and Apple doesn't care. Ditto several other companies dicussed here (http://slashdot.org/articles/99/01/30/1240206_F.s html --- also --- http://slashdot.org/articles/99/04/28/1817216.shtm l --- also --- http://slashdot.org/articles/99/03/16/106241.shtml ). This is something that happens all the time, this is not Apple being lunatics or monopolists. It would be really nice if it didn't happen, but it's one of those quirks of US law and corporate america. It'd also be nice if people tried using an OS or a hardware setup before either raving about how great/terrible it is. I work with Macs, PC (NT,9x, and a variety of linuxes) every day. All of them have strong points, and all of them have weak points. Being a little more objective never hurt anyone.


    itachi
  • It does look like a cheap knock-off of the IMac. I wonder if intellectual property or even copywrite extends to the look and feel of a product. Most of the time anyone comes out with a new product, all th ecompetitors start copying the product and even the design. I guess that we shall have to wait and see.
  • Can you imagine if some car manufacturer came out with a car that looked just like a VW Beetle? Obviously, VW would sue the pants off the company and everyone would think nothing of that.

    Why the heck would it be any different for the industrial design of a computer?

    I think becasue the notion of actually spending big R&D on having a unique industrial design to a computer is still so new, that a lot of people don't grasp it. To anyone seeing a VW Beetle knock-off, it would be so blatently obvious. To most people with any common sense, one look at the e-power machine and you know its a blatent rip-off of Apple's design.

    Comparing this law suit to Apple's old lawsuit against Microsoft doesn't hold any water. Apple had previously signed an agreement with Microsoft that they COULD use a lot of Apple's technology. If you know the history, you know that to many it was considered one their biggest blunders. [As you probably know too, MS just recently "invested" in Apple which was more a resolution in patent disputes among other things to the tune of 150 million dollars].
  • by roger_ford (65174) <raf@@@mit...edu> on Friday July 02, 1999 @03:49AM (#1821384)
    Apple can win this lawsuit despite losing to Microsoft, for one basic reason: the two lawsuits are based on entirely different legal reasoning.

    Apple lost the Microsoft suit because they had signed a contract saying that Microsoft could use some of the features of the Mac OS in a Windows product. They have of course not signed any such document with Future Power.

    There are two legal tactics Apple could use, according to computer and intellectual property law specialist Curtis E. Karnow. The first is "trade dress," which covers the distinctive appearance of a product and its association with a certain company in the minds of consumers. The classic example of this is the distinctive appearance of the Coca Cola bottle. Trade dress is very difficult to prove, however, since you have to prove that consumers could be confused.

    The other tactic Apple could take is dilution of trademark. From MacWeek:

    " `Apple could charge Future Power with trademark dilution, which is much easier to prove than trade dress,' Karnow said. Proof of trademark dilution requires no substantive documentation of any confusion customers might experience when they see a product that looks much like the iMac."

    Apple certainly has the iMac designs trademarked (and probably has design patents too), so this would be a relatively easy case to win.

    For more information, see:
    http://macweek.zdnet.com/1999/06/27/epower.html
    http://macweek.zdnet.com/1999/06/27/imacalikethu rs.html

    -Roger Ford
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