Mac Cloner Sues Umax, Apple, Claiming Antitrust, Contract Breach

PowerTools Computer Systems is suing Apple Computer Inc. and Umax Data Systems Inc. for at least $50 million, claiming that the two companies have conspired to stop the small Texas start-up from selling Macintosh clones.

PowerTools Computer Systems is suing Apple Computer Inc. and Umax Data Systems Inc. for at least $50 million, claiming that the two companies have conspired to stop the small Texas start-up from selling Macintosh clones.

The suits claim that Umax Data Systems and its subsidiary Umax Computer Corp. broke a two-year agreement to supply Power Tools with core computer components because of pressure by Apple. PowerTools, in Austin, Texas, claims Umax and Apple breached a contract and violated antitrust laws.

Apple's offices are closed for the holidays and officials couldn't be reached for comment. Umax officials couldn't be reached for comment.

PowerTools used Umax's computer systems and added faster and more-powerful components, from processors to hard drives, to make its clones. Umax reneged on its two-year deal after PowerTools announced in September that it would sell Macintosh clones with the new G3 processor, months before Apple would release its G3 products, the suit said. "When the threat to their market share posed by PowerTools ... became apparent, the conspirators collaborated, conspired and agreed to boycott PowerTools and to eliminate its supply of component parts," the suit said.

PowerTools CEO Victor Wong said in an interview that his company had no choice but to file the lawsuits after attempts at negotiations failed. PowerTools has had overwhelming demand for its clones and expected to sell the 20,000 units Umax was supposed to supply each year, the suit said. PowerTools has managed to ship some clones by buying Umax machines at retail prices and reconfiguring them to PowerTools' specifications, he said.

Nevertheless, not being able to meet demand has placed PowerTools in jeopardy, Wong said. "It's a very difficult situation."

Earlier this year, Apple decided not to renew cloning licenses with Power Computing Corp. and Motorola, Inc., leaving Umax as the lone Mac cloning company. PowerTools used to have a sublicense with Motorola to use the Mac OS, but to get around Apple's new restrictions, the company has had to include store-bought Mac OS 8 copies with its computers.

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