The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that plaintiffs may sue Apple [corporate website] for violating antitrust regulations by forcing users to purchase apps exclusively through their app store. The court held that plaintiffs have standing to sue Apple because the communications company only permits developers to sell applications for Apple devices exclusively through the Apple app store, which may cause higher pricing for Apple users. The plaintiffs allege this exclusivity created a monopoly on apps for Apple users, which then created a profit for Apple. According to the appeals court:
In Apple’s view, because it sells distribution services to app developers, it cannot simultaneously be a distributor of apps to app purchasers. Apple analogizes its role to the role of an owner of a shopping mall that “leases physical space to various stores.” Apple’s analogy is unconvincing. In the case before us, third-party developers of iPhone apps do not have their own “stores.” Indeed, part of the anti-competitive behavior alleged by Plaintiffs is that, far from allowing iPhone app developers to sell through their own “stores,” Apple specifically forbids them to do so, instead requiring them to sell iPhone apps only through Apple’s App Store.
The case will now proceed to trial.
This latest ruling is the latest event in a series of legal challenges for Apple. In December Apple launched [JURIST report] a legal challenge to a $14 billion tax penalty that the EU has levied against the company. The US Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favor [JURIST report] of Samsung over Apple in December in an infringement suit between the two smartphone giants.