Apple Loses Bid To End FaceTime Lawsuit

Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) motion to dismiss a lawsuit related to disabling FaceTime on iOS 6 and earlier software versions has been denied. United States district judge Lucy Koh denied the motion, allowing the case to proceed as a class action lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in February.

The lawsuit claims Apple intentionally broke FaceTime on iOS 6 and earlier by disabling a digital certificate that caused the service to cease functioning. FaceTime abruptly stopped functioning for all iOS 6 users in April 2014. At the time, Apple blamed a “bug” linked to an expired certificate for the problem. Apple did not tell users that it had intentionally caused the digital certificate to expire prematurely.

When launching FaceTime in 2010, Apple used two connection methods. The peer-to-peer method used between 90 and 95 percent of the time created a direct connection between two iPhones. The other method was a relay method that used data servers from content delivery network company Akamai Technologies.

In 2012, Apple’s peer-to-peer method was found to infringe on VirnetX’s patents resulting in a shift toward the relay method. The fees to Akamai skyrocketed, with Apple paying $50 million in fees within a year. Apple eventually created a new peer-to-peer technology used in iOS 7, which debuted in September 2013.

Seven months later, FaceTime no longer worked on iOS 6 and earlier versions. The company advised affected users to update to iOS 7 to fix the issue. The lawsuit alleges that Apple prioritized its financial interests over its customers, saying that Apple intentionally broke FaceTime to stop paying millions of dollars per month to Akamai.

One of Apple’s arguments in its motion was that the plaintiffs have no right to uninterrupted, continuous, or error-free FaceTime service under the terms of its iOS Software License Agreement. Most iPhones and iPads were already on iOS 7 by the time FaceTime stopped working with iOS 6, but 11 percent were still on the old OS.

Apple also argued that the plaintiffs in the case had suffered no financial loss since FaceTime is a free service. Koh said in a footnote of her ruling, “FaceTime is a ‘feature’ of the iPhone and thus a component of the iPhone’s cost.”

The plaintiffs claim Apple’s actions violate California’s Unfair Competition Law and are seeking a jury trial. The class action lawsuit would apply to all iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s owners in the United States with iOS 6 or an earlier version of the operating system installed on that device on April 16, 2014. Another hearing is scheduled for August 23, 2017, with a preliminary trial date set for January 28, 2019.

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