Apple Says Court Should Reject HomePod ‘Planned Obsolescence’ Suit in MTD

On Wednesday, Apple filed moving papers in support of its bid to dismiss a consumer complaint over a software update that allegedly rendered HomePod wireless speaker and smart home devices inoperable. According to the motion, the plaintiff strings together an incoherent theory of harm derived from the anecdotal experiences of Reddit users in his attempt to hold Apple accountable under anti-hacking provisions of federal and California law.

The plaintiff sued two months ago, explaining that after Apple ended sales of the HomePod in March 2021, the company kept producing software updates for those devices. The filing says that in May 2021, the company automatically installed an update on HomePod devices causing them to “brick,” or become inoperable, though the update was supposed to improve device performance.

According to the complaint, this “planned obsolescence” is part of Apple’s business model: force customers to repair, or more likely, replace non-functioning devices with new ones in order to buoy sales. The complaint sought relief from Apple’s alleged intrusion and to certify several classes of HomePod buyers.

This week, Apple moved to dismiss on the bases that the complaint fails to state a claim for relief and that the plaintiff lacks Article III standing to pursue his injunctive relief claims. The filing first notes, per attached and “judicially noticeable” documents, that the plaintiff agreed to the HomePod Software License Agreement (SLA), which permits Apple to download and install automatic software updates onto his device and expressly disclaims any warranty covering the software.

It then goes after the plaintiff’s Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, California Comprehensive Computer Data Access and Fraud Act, and common law trespass claims. Because the plaintiff agreed to the SLA terms, he cannot now prove that Apple accessed his device without permission or authorization as required by the laws, the defendant argues.

“These causes of action are aimed at preventing conduct tantamount to ‘breaking and entering’; the law does not support Plaintiff’s theory that a routine, automatic, authorized software update is a ‘digital intrusion’ under these statutes,” Apple reasons.

The motion then tackles the equitable relief claims, including unjust enrichment and violations of the California Unfair Competition Law, arguing, among other reasons, that they must be dismissed because the plaintiff has not pleaded a threat of recurrent injury. Specifically, “his claims are based on a single software update that purportedly rendered his HomePod inoperable, and he alleges no intent to purchase another HomePod,” Apple contends, noting that he cannot purchase another as it discontinued the HomePod product line.

The dismissal hearing is scheduled for July 22 before Judge Charles R. Breyer. The plaintiff is represented by Bursor & Fisher P.A. and Apple by Latham & Watkins LLP.