The Apple II was a simple design relative to its retail price, so attractive to cloners. This naturally led to many lawsuits, at least one of which actually established new copyright law. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apple_Computer,_Inc._v._Franklin_Computer_Corp.

The above page, and everything else I have found on the matter, suggests Apple's legal weapon against the clones was copyright on the system software. So the last clone standing was https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_128 which avoided the copyright problem by the same clean-room reverse engineering technique that was used on the IBM PC BIOS.

But it seems to me the other kind of legal weapon in Apple's arsenal was patents, of which they had several related to the Apple II: https://mirrors.apple2.org.za/Apple%20II%20Documentation%20Project/Computers/Apple%20II/Apple%20II/Patents/

Did they successfully use patents against clones? If not, why not?

  • 5
    AFAIK only the colour generation was ever used - but successful only for a short time. It was good to hold of a few western companies (like BASIS in Germany), but by 1982 the Taiwan cloning business was in full swing - and as hard to hit as ants in your garden. An endless stream of boards made by small back yard manufacturers and sold by equally small shops under any fruit name imaginable. Try stopping that with lengthy law suits that did always only take out one at a time.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 0:47
  • 4
    The point about Taiwan is that they never signed the Basel copyright convention in the first place. But yet they could export stuff. So you had to file a lawsuit against any single importer, which was just impractical. They could simply fold and reopen under another name before you had even set up the paperwork.
    – Janka
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 7:17
  • 2
    Most of Apple's hardware patents were the result of Woz genius saving a few cents for a few chips. They were typically easily circumvented by throwing some (not-too-expensive) hardware at the problem.
    – tofro
    Commented Jul 31, 2023 at 10:15


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