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July 31, 2017

Apple Denied Motion to Dismiss Lawsuit Related to Disabling FaceTime on iOS 6 and Earlier

by John_A

United States district judge Lucy Koh has denied Apple’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit related to disabling FaceTime on iOS 6 and earlier software versions three years ago, allowing the case to proceed as a class action lawsuit. MacRumors obtained court documents of the opinion filed electronically.

The lawsuit was filed in February by California resident and iPhone 4 owner Christina Grace, who claims Apple intentionally broke FaceTime on iOS 6 and earlier by disabling a digital certificate that caused the service to cease functioning. California resident Ken Patter was later named as a second plaintiff.

FaceTime abruptly stopped functioning for all iOS 6 users in April 2014. At the time, a spokesperson for Apple said devices may have encountered a “bug” resulting from a device certificate that expired on that date, and the company advised affected users to update to iOS 7 to fix the issue.

The lawsuit, however, alleges that Apple intentionally broke FaceTime, prioritizing its financial interests over its customers.

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

Apple’s peer-to-peer FaceTime technology was found to infringe on VirnetX’s patents in 2012, however, so the company began to shift toward the relay method, which used Akamai’s servers. Within a year, Apple was paying $50 million in fees to Akamai, according to testimony from the VirnetX trial.

Apple eventually solved the problem by creating new peer-to-peer technology that would debut in iOS 7 in September 2013. But not all users upgraded and, seven months later, the lawsuit alleges that Apple intentionally broke FaceTime on iOS 6 and earlier to stop paying millions per month to Akamai.

Testimony from Apple’s 2016 retrial with VirnetX indicated that, between April 2013 and September 2013 alone, Apple paid approximately $50 million as a result of FaceTime functioning in relay mode only on iOS 6 and earlier.

Updating to iOS 7 could be seen as the simple solution in this situation. But the plaintiffs owned an iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s, and cited internet articles that claim updating to iOS 7 significantly impairs the performance and functionality of those smartphones. Their complaint also cited Bluetooth and Wi-Fi issues.

In its now-denied motion to dismiss, one of Apple’s arguments was that the plaintiffs have no right to uninterrupted, continuous, or error-free FaceTime service under the terms of its iOS Software License Agreement. Apple also said the plaintiffs didn’t experience the iOS 7 issues mentioned on their own iPhones.

The class action lawsuit would apply to all iPhone 4 or iPhone 4s owners in the United States who, on April 16, 2014, had iOS 6 or an earlier version of the operating system installed on that device. The plaintiffs claim Apple’s actions violate California’s Unfair Competition Law and are seeking a jury trial.

Tags: lawsuit, FaceTime, VirnetX
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