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Apple Gets Creative in App Store Antitrust Lawsuit Defense

By George Khoury, Esq. on October 12, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Apple Inc. is known for manufacturing some of the sleekest and highest quality consumer technology available. However, according to a recent review of legal filings by Ars Technica, the most creative people on the Apple team might in fact be the lawyers.

The In Re Apple IPhone Antitrust Litigation case has found its way to SCOTUS review. Now the tech goliath will have a chance to test out their novel arguments before the High Court in a bid to get the case tossed once again.

App Store Monopoly

The gist of the lawsuit is that consumers are forced to pay more, at the end of the day, for the apps sold through the Apple App Store, as a result of the 30% cut that Apple takes from the independent app developers. Also, because Apple maintains tight controls over the App Store itself, as well as limits all app purchases to their own App Store, the Ninth Circuit ruled that Apple is a distributor of the apps and therefore potentially subject to antitrust liability as the plaintiffs in the case do in fact have standing.

Apple argued in the circuit appeal that the App Store was the same as a brick and mortar shopping mall where developers or store owners leased space from the mall owner to sell their wares. Critical in the analysis however was the fact that developers cannot sell their made-for-Apple products apps on any other platform.

An App Store for the People

The lawsuit is seeking a couple significant outcomes for the app purchasing population:

  1. Damages for the higher than competitive prices that app store consumers have been forced to pay.
  2. The ability for consumers to buy apps directly from developers without going through the App Store.

Apple, in turn, hopes that SCOTUS will reverse or vacate the Ninth Circuit's ruling that the antitrust case can proceed. Interestingly though, SCOTUS has invited the United States government to file a brief in this matter through the Solicitor General.

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