It looks like Apple has gotten the go-ahead to continue a suit against eForCity, a company that was manufacturing cheap connectors for Apple devices. This is a topic ripe for discussion, but try as I might to argue against Apple’s position in this particular case, I don’t really see a problem with it except for my fundamental objection to lock-in technologies, and that’s a much bigger issue.
There’s a good discussion in the comments over at Ars Technica; the gist is that while it is of course restrictive and wrong for a company to say “you can’t make things without our permission,” the fact is that the 30-pin connector was designed and patented by Apple, and reverse-engineering for commercial purposes is illegal, plain and simple.
Now, if you couldn’t make without Apple’s permission a USB cable that connected, say, an external hard drive to an Apple laptop, that’d be something worth making noise about. But in this case I think Apple is okay — if you want to do business within their proprietary ecosystem (and make a lot of money by sharing the Apple tax), you have to pay the price and sign up.
Of course, that time may be coming, as Apple is now designing custom ports that combine USB and Thunderbolt functionality. I doubt they’ll lock out normal USB cables, but they are making things more their own every day.