Apple is in court this week fighting a class-action lawsuit that alleges the company deliberately crippled competing music services by locking iPods and iTunes music to it own ecosystem, but as it turns out, there may be no legitimate plaintiff in the case.
The class-action suit pertains to iPods (classic, shuffle, touch, and nano) purchased between September 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009, and in a letter addressed to the judge overseeing the trial, Apple says (via The New York Times) that it has been unable to confirm the purchase dates of some of the iPods cited by the plaintiffs.
During her testimony, plaintiff Marianna Rosen claimed to have purchased an iPod touch in December of 2008, but the device's serial number indicates that it was actually purchased in July of 2009, outside of the scope of the case. The iPod touch Rosen mentioned this week also contradicts previous statements she has given stating that she only owned a 15GB iPod and a 30GB video iPod.
That is contrary to her December 16, 2010 response to Apple's Interrogatory No. 20 that, as of that date, she had purchased only "a 15 GB iPod, and a 30GB video iPod for her own use," and "an iPod Mini as a present for her sister." Attachment 2, TX 2869 at 14. In that interrogatory response, Ms. Rosen also affirmatively stated, "She has not purchased any other MP3 players."
Rosen also claimed to have purchased an iPod nano in the fall of 2007, but Apple was not able to verify the purchase and has asked for proof of purchase and a serial number.
Apple is also asking for evidence of iPod purchases made by the second plaintiff in the case, Melanie Tucker, who claims to have bought a fourth-generation iPod classic in 2004, a fifth-generation iPod classic in 2006, and a 32GB iPod touch.
According to the judge overseeing the case, if there are no viable plaintiffs, the trial could be stalled or stopped altogether. "I am concerned that I don't have a plaintiff," the judge said. "That's a problem."
Lawyers from the plaintiffs are expected to respond to Apple's request for proof of purchase by tonight.
Update 12/5 9:30 AM: Apple has now filed for dismissal of the case after discovering that Marianna Rosen's other iPods were purchased by her husband's law firm. The other plaintiff, Melanie Tucker, was withdrawn from the case on Friday. According to CNET, if the plaintiff's lawyers do not provide evidence that Rosen purchased a qualifying iPod, they could substitute a new plaintiff or expand the lawsuit to cover a wider timeframe.