The curious timing of Apple’s App Store settlement

“At the moment, Apple’s App Store overseer Phil Schiller must be smiling.” — Joe Sisco

From Sisco’s “The Briefing” posted Friday by The Information ($):

The most intriguing part of the settlement is the timing. The same federal judge who will be asked to approve it, Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, presided over a similar antitrust case filed against Apple by Epic Games, which went to trial earlier this year. Her ruling in that case is expected any day now—perhaps tonight!

If the developers’ attorneys were bullish on Epic’s chances (and given the last time we saw Gonzalez Rogers in action, when she took Apple to task, it’s significant that they weren’t), they presumably would have waited for a ruling that would give them more leverage. Settling with Apple for a trivial amount of money—about half the developers in the class will only get $250 while the top 1% will get $30,000—and a modest loosening of App Store rules may be as good as they think they can get. Oh, and the lawyers are asking for 30% of the settlement pie—$30 million—for themselves. While that’s standard practice, it’s certainly ironic!

One may wonder if Apple settled the case now in order to try to influence the Epic ruling, but by law she isn’t allowed to consider it; her decision must be based on the trial alone.

Still, it’s not a stretch to imagine Epic being disappointed by the developer settlement, because if the little guys are cool with getting a few crumbs from Apple, it may seem like Epic and other strong companies are asking for too much. Two other members of the anti-Apple coalition, Spotify and Match, already voiced their displeasure with the settlement, which doesn’t involve them. Perhaps enough small app developers will formally object to and overturn the settlement. But at the moment, Apple’s App Store overseer Phil Schiller must be smiling.

My take: Apple doesn’t like leaving anything to chance. Even federal judges.

5 Comments

  1. Bart Yee said:
    From AppleInsider headline on the same story:

    Law firm requesting 30% of $100M Apple Small Developer Assistance Fund

    “At least 30% of the $100 million developer fund that Apple will create to settle a class action lawsuit will go toward attorneys’ fees, the settlement proposal indicates.”

    Gee, I guess the developers getting charged 30% should sue these lawyers for a smaller fee. Or maybe to side load a different law firm?

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    August 28, 2021
    • David Emery said:
      “30% of the settlement…” The dirty secret about class action lawsuits. The only people who -really profit- are lawyers.

      2
      August 28, 2021
  2. Gary Morton said:
    He meant to say…the little guys, who owe their very existence to the iPhone and the App Store,…

    4
    August 28, 2021
  3. Gregg Thurman said:
    The little guys settled for the equivalent of 294 sales on the App Store.

    294

    That wouldn’t pay my utility (gas, electric, sewer, water, trash) bill each month.

    Apple paid off a nuisance, a pesky fly, an extortionist, in order to focus on growing the Company. I’d be embarrassed to admit to being a part of this carnival.

    1
    August 28, 2021
  4. Thomas Larkin said:
    Approximately 95% of cases settle, on average. Those settlements generally occur before the court rules. And reflecting on my 30 years of practice, I can’t remember a case where the Judge did not urge the parties to settle. So, I’m not getting the ‘curious timing’ issue, this is quite normal in litigation generally.

    4
    August 28, 2021

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