While Apple's court case against Epic Games might be the one that has been getting the most public attention recently, the firm has also been fighting legal battles against BlueMail developer Blix for the past couple of years. Now, Blix' antitrust lawsuit has been thrown out of the court for the third time, giving Apple a potentially definitive victory.
While Blix' email and calendar client BlueMail is quite popular on the Google Play Store, it has failed to gain similar traction on the App Store. In fact, the app was even removed from the storefront in 2019 for violating guidelines related to "proposing to override basic data security protections which can expose users' computers to malware that can harm their Macs and threaten their privacy." Although the app was reinstated a few days later, the developer filed a lawsuit against Apple claiming that the Cupertino tech giant suppresses the competition by lowering its ranking in search results and listings. It also alleged that Apple has copied its patented messaging technology in the "Sign in with Apple" feature.
After the case got thrown out of court in December 2020, Blix refiled in February 2021. However, it faced yet another defeat when a District of Delaware judge stated that the patents are too abstract to constitute a theft of IP infringement. Consequently, the case was thrown out for the second time in March 2021. Now, it has been dismissed for the third time with the judge saying that Blix has not been able to prove that Apple restricts the competition:
Apple's current policy of requiring Sign In With Apple whenever any SSO product is offered permits new competitors and competition (including Blix) because it does not foreclose the use of other SSOs. Allowing competition is the opposite of unlawfully constraining competition, so, again, Blix has failed to state a claim.
For its part, Apple didn't mince words either, saying that Blix complains frequently about antitrust but only has conspiracy theories to back up its claims. The full statement reads:
Blix, a member of the Coalition for App Fairness and frequent complainer to press and regulators, alleged false conspiracy theories and anti-competitive claims against Apple. The court correctly rejected these claims and threw out Blix's case. This case demonstrates that Apple has consistently acted legally by introducing its own innovative products and features that promote competition.
On the other side of the fence, Blix expressed its disappointment at the court's decision, but stated that it will continue the fight for fair competition and the rights of app developers:
Blix accurately described Apple’s monopoly power in mobile OS, and Apple chose not to contest that in court. At the same time, we are disappointed by the court's decision to somewhat signal that Apple can put sand in the gears to competitors and change its developer guidelines as it sees fit. This includes kicking BlueMail off the App Store for 8 months, stonewalling BlueMail for many weeks a year later and various other bullying tactics. These are facts that Apple did not refute in court.
We are glad that the fairness movement we’ve started for app developers to speak out the truth against Apple continues to gain momentum and we have high hopes that the Biden administration, the EU Commission, Australia and other countries will limit Apple's disproportionate power.
Blix will continue to fight for the fundamental and essential app developers’ rights and will stand firm in allowing fair and balanced competition. The digital markets would be much more innovative had Apple allowed for true competition. The ability to innovate by small businesses continues to be at stake.
It is yet to be seen whether Blix will give up in its fight against Apple or if it will take the Cupertino tech giant to court for the fourth time under claims of antitrust.