NDCA Gives Nod to App Developers’ $100M Antitrust Settlement with Apple

An opinion issued by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers earlier this week gave preliminary approval to a class of app developer class’ proposed settlement with Apple Inc. The settlement provides both monetary and structural relief, the latter in six areas of particular importance to the iOS developer community, the opinion said.

The developers’ antitrust lawsuit against Apple contended that the tech titan “willfully acquired and maintained monopoly power, or attempted to gain monopoly power, by refusing to allow iOS device users to purchase iOS apps and in-app products other than through its own App Store.” When the parties reached agreement in August, the litigation was two-and-half years old and the parties had engaged in discovery with more than 5 million documents and 20 million pages produced.

In Tuesday’s opinion, the court considered the factors enumerated under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b) in finding the settlement legally sound. With respect to the numerosity requirement, the court reported that the class includes 67,000 members, making it so vast that joinder of all members is impracticable. 

Judge Gonzalez Rogers also found that the core of the action, namely the alleged monopolization conduct, was common to all class members. Too, the proposed settlement satisfied the typicality requirement because the same conduct caused the alleged antitrust injury, making the plaintiffs’ claims typical of all class members.

The court also approved the firm proposed for the role of class counsel, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, finding that the lawyers spearheading the settlement “are deeply versed in this area of the law and have routinely demonstrated that they are qualified and have experience with prosecuting class actions of this kind and therefore adequate to represent the Settlement Class as well.”

Judge Gonzalez Rogers ratified the settlement amount and opined that the structural relief is meaningful. Two of the six changes are Apple’s promise to reduce its commission to 15% for certain domestic app developers for at least three years after final approval and to revise guidelines to permit developers to communicate with customers outside their app.

With regard to attorneys’ fees, the court reminded the plaintiffs’ counsel that it “does not typically award thirty-three percent (33%) of the gross settlement fund as fees and that any request for the same will need to be accompanied by detailed time records.”

All moving papers related to final approval of the class action settlement are due in April 2022. Apple is represented by Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP.