BlueMail Antitrust Case Against Apple Dismissed
An antitrust lawsuit leveled at Apple by Blix Inc. has been dismissed by a federal judge, in what appears to be a major setback for developers accusing Apple of malpractice with its App Store (via Bloomberg).
BlueMail was removed from the Mac App Store in June 2019 after Apple found the app to be in violation of several App Store Review Guidelines, including "proposing to override basic data security protections which can expose users' computers to malware that can harm their Macs and threaten their privacy." Just days later, BlueMail was restored to the Mac App Store.
Blix Inc., developer of the email app BlueMail, then filed a lawsuit accusing Apple of manipulating search results in its iOS and macOS App Stores to suppress third-party competition and push consumers towards Apple's own apps. Blix also alleged that Apple copied patented messaging technology for its "Sign In With Apple" feature before removing BlueMail from the App Store.
Judge Leonard P. Stark of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware dismissed the claims, concluding Blix had failed to offer direct or indirect evidence of Apple's monopoly power or anticompetitive conduct in violation of the Sherman Act.
"Allegations that Apple has the power to restrict competition aren't equivalent to allegations that the company actually did restrict competitors' output", Judge Stark wrote. "Even if Blix had plausibly alleged that Apple held a monopoly over apps, its failure to allege anticompetitive conduct provides an independent reason to dismiss its claims."
Judge Stark said Blix's anticompetitive-conduct claims failed because the company itself demonstrated that the App Store isn't essential to BlueMail's success. Blix told the court that BlueMail had achieved success on a range of platforms, and was sold on the market for five years before becoming available on the App Store.
Moreover, Judge Stark dismissed the claims of patent infringement on the basis that they do not fall under an exception to patent eligibility that allows for abstract ideas to be patented if they describe a "unique and inventive concept."
The case may set a precedent for similar antitrust lawsuits against Apple by developers, such as the ongoing case brought forward by Epic Games against Apple.