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Apple Sues Sanho Over MagSafe Power Cords

Posted by jlong | Posted in Computer, Computer Accessories, iPad | Posted on 28-09-2010

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To say that Apple is protective of their products would be an understatement.  Throughout the years Apple has been very secretive with their products and very reluctant to let third party accessory makers in on the action. Apple has no problem taking companies who they feel have infringed on their copyrights to court, and their latest victim is Sanho Corporations, makers of the incredibly popular HyperMac batteries. MacBook users have always been fans of the HyperMac batteries because of their ability to extend battery life anywhere from dozens to hundreds of hours. Is this convenience about to end?

While Apple is not happy with Sanho overall, their biggest problem is the use by Sanho of Apple’s trademark MagSafe power connector. The MagSafe power connector has been around since the introduction of the MacBook back in 2006 and has never been licensed out to third party accessory makers in all of that time. The MagSafe power connector is essentially like any other power cord except that it connects to the laptop through a magnet. By using magnets instead of fasteners, Apple guarantees that if the MagSafe cord is tugged on or tripped over it will release without harming the computer. Since it was clearly against the law to produce their own MagSafe connectors, Sanho took another approach and instead repurposed pre-existing MagSafe connectors.  When Sanho says repurpose, what they really mean is that they buy used MagSafe power cords and splice the connector onto their HyperMac batteries. For quite awhile this ingenious tactic kept Sanho flying well under Apple’s radar, but when Apple discovered what Sanho was really doing, they were quite upset.

Apple is also suing Sanho over their use of the 30-pin dock connector which Apple uses on a wide range of their products, including the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and various other iPods. While the 30-pin connector is licensed out to some third party accessory makers, Sanho is not one of them.

It is clear that Apple is probably in the right for this case, at least in a legal sense, but they may have a difficult time nailing Sanho for the use of their MagSafe connector. Since Sanho purchases used MagSafe power cords for their products, the power cords may be protected under the doctrine of first sale, meaning that since the product in question is used that Apple cannot protest it being sold. Either way the court case goes, it would be unfortunate to lose HyperMac batteries overall. They are incredibly useful devices that can power a MacBook for a whole day or charge an iPhone over long trips. It may be in Apple’s best interest to leave well enough alone in this case, but with a court track record like Apple has it is unlikely the monster of a company will back down.

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