John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

Apple App Store Monopoly Suit Undermined by Pesky “Detail”

Apple has won a dismissal of a lawsuit alleging that it maintains a monopoly over iOS applications — albeit on a technicality.

In a Thursday order, U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers tossed the suit, ruling that the plaintiffs had no grounds to file it in the first place. The reason: They hadn’t demonstrated that they’d actually purchased any of the iOS apps at issue in the case.

An embarrassing oversight, and one that left a massive hole in their argument. Hard to argue that Apple’s monopolistic behavior has deprived you of lower-cost app-store alternatives and forced you to pay higher prices for iOS apps when you haven’t shown that you personally purchased any.

As Rogers observed in her order, “At a minimum, Plaintiffs must allege facts showing that each named Plaintiff has personally suffered an injury-in-fact based on Apple’s alleged conduct. This requires that Plaintiffs at least purchased applications.”

I’m sure that Apple legal would have had a nice little chuckle over the moronics of mounting a suit like this without an injury-in-fact on which to base it, were it not for the fact that it will almost certainly be refiled. Indeed, an attorney for the plaintiffs has already said publicly that he “can add the extra detail very easily.”

So it looks like Apple will have to defend itself against allegations that consumers’ inability to legally buy iPhone apps from anywhere but the App Store is proof that it is a monopolist. That said, it has already got a well-reasoned defense locked and loaded. There’s nothing illegal about the sort of vertical integration it has created between the App Store and the iOS devices that use it.

As I wrote back in March:

Apple [argues] that requiring developers to sell their apps through its iTunes App Store and nowhere else is not an antitrust violation, nor is charging devs a 30 percent cut of their proceeds for distibution. Just because there are no third-party storefronts peddling discounted iPhone apps doesn’t mean Apple is abusing a monopoly position over iOS apps. The company doesn’t set the price for paid applications.

Alexander Schmidt, attorney for the plaintiffs, did not respond to a request for comment.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik