US district judge, Lucy Koh, has ruled that iPhone 4 and 4S users can pursue US class action claims that Apple intentionally “broke” FaceTime to save money from routing calls through servers owned by Akamai Technologies.
Neither Apple, nor lawyers for the plaintiffs, immediately responded to requests for comment. Apple began using Akamai’s servers after losing a lawsuit in 2012, in which VirnetX Holding claimed that FaceTime technology infringed its patents. Testimony from a 2016 retrial in that case showed that Apple paid Akamai $50m (€42.5m) in one six-month period.
The plaintiffs said Apple eventually created a cheaper alternative for its iOS 7 operating system, and, in April, 2014, disabled FaceTime on iOS 6 and earlier systems. Judge Koh said the plaintiffs alleged some measurable loss to their phones’ value, and could try to show that Apple’s conduct constituted a trespass and violated state consumer-protection laws. The California-based judge twice quoted from what the plaintiffs said was an Apple employee’s internal email, characterising iOS 6 users as “basically screwed”, because of the disabling of FaceTime.
She also rejected Apple’s argument that the plaintiffs suffered no economic loss, because FaceTime was a “free” service. The plaintiffs are led by Christina Grace, of Marin County, California, and Ken Potter, of San Diego County, California, who both owned the iPhone 4.