Here is an interesting article from the New York Times about Apple II clones,
published in February 29, 1984
IMPORT BAN ON APPLE IMITATIONS
By DAVID E. SANGER
The United States International Trade Commission ruled
unanimously yesterday that nearly two dozen manufacturers in Asia had infringed
on patents and copyrights held by the Apple Computer Inc., and it banned the
foreign companies from exporting the imitation Apple machines to the United
The commission said that within two weeks, it would issue
an ''exclusionary order'' with details of the decision. Before the order takes
effect, President Reagan will have 60 days to accept or alter it.
Yesterday's ruling was another major victory for Apple
and other computer makers that have been fighting imitators, both foreign and
domestic. In September, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
ruled that the Franklin Computer Corporation of New Jersey had violated Apple's
copyrights on computer programs known as operating systems, which are etched
on a computer's circuitry.
That case was the first to establish that all computer
programs, or software, can be copyrighted, even if they are indistinguishable
from a computer's hardware. Franklin has agreed to pay Apple $2.5 million in
damages and to design its own programs for its Apple-compatible machines. In
the last month, the International Business Machines Corporation has obtained
consent decrees in Federal court against two manufacturers of machines compatible
with the I.B.M. Personal Computer.
The commission ruling yesterday, which involved copies
of the Apple IIe, means that computer makers may have a more powerful weapon
against the foreign manufacturers, primarily in Taiwan and South Korea, whose
relatively inexpensive machines are sold under names such as Pineapple and Orange.
''To the extent that other manufacturers have valid copyrights
on their software, this means they will also be able to seek protection,'' Michael
Stein, the commission's general counsel, said last night.
The commission's ruling was unusual because traditional
import restrictions on products such as steel or televisions are usually based
on a finding of unfair pricing. Relatively few have involved copyright issues.
''It was a extraordinarily difficult question for us,''
Mr. Stein said. ''But the Franklin case offered some guidance.''
The ruling may prove most important for the precedent
it sets. The number of imitation Apples appears to be declining, primarily because
Apple has been forced by competition to cut the Apple IIe price almost in half,
to about $1,400. Foreign-built machines cost from $800 to $1,100.
Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., has pursued
foreign manufacturers overseas, as well. Last month in Taipei, Taiwan, the owners
of six local companies were sentenced to eight months in prison for illegally
reproducing Apple designs.
Nevertheless, Albert A. Eisenstat, Apple's vice president
and general counsel, said: ''The impact of this is that we no longer have to
fight imitators case by case. We can now have Customs issue a blanket order
to seize the machines.''
It was unclear, however, whether yesterday's order also
covered Apple imitations that do not contain the computer chip, known as a ROM,
for ''read only memory.'' The chip contains the copy of Apple's program that
tells the computer where to store information and how to perform other essential
To evade Customs officials, machines have been imported
without the offending ROM chip. The chips are inserted later.
Apple has sought to exclude the ROM-less computers as
well. ''We will have to wait until the judgment is issued before we determine
if that was a success,'' Mr. Eisenstat said.
The move to ban imitations was vigorously opposed by
One of the companies inserting ROM's in the United States
is the Collins International Trading Corporation of Los Angeles, which sells
a $1,100 computer called the Orange Plus II. It could not be determined immediately
whether the Orange Plus II was affected by the order. Last night, Martin R.
Gold, an attorney for Collins, said, ''I don't think any finding of violation
is warranted against Collins.''