Last Friday, a District of Delaware judge dismissed monopolization and tying claims with prejudice after finding that the plaintiff, Blix Inc., fell short of stating a claim for relief. The case concerned Blix’s privacy-oriented online sign-in tool, its messaging bridge, and the plaintiff’s allegation that Apple Inc. stole its technology and edged its product out of the consumer single sign-on (SSO) market.
The July 9 decision explained that the lawsuit was originally filed as both a patent and antitrust case. It was pared down in March 2021 when the court dismissed all of Blix’s patent infringement contentions due to the asserted patent being directed to patent-ineligible subject matter. Last week’s opinion dealt with distinct contentions raised in Blix’s second amended complaint.
The plaintiff’s filing argued that when, in September 2019, Apple introduced its ‘Sign in with Apple’ proprietary consumer SSO, it infringed Blix’s Messaging Bridge patent. In essence, the filing said, Apple stole Blix’s technology, then took actions to further entrench its dominance within iOS and eviscerate the threat of competition in the consumer SSO market.
“The core of Blix’s allegation seems to be that Apple has constructed a ‘moat’ around ‘its user base by a series of actions that, individually and especially together, make it difficult and expensive for Apple iOS users to leave the coordinated technological ecosystem;’ this moat is allegedly ‘grounded and protected by Apple’s monopoly power in its OS,’” the ruling said.
The court then considered whether the Sherman Act claims met federal pleading requirements without reaching Apple’s antitrust standing arguments. At the outset of its analysis, the court noted that Blix’s monopoly maintenance claim was premised on Apple’s infringement of Blix’s patent, a claim which the court had already declined.
Turning to the merits of Blix’s claim, the court held that it failed to plead Apple had unlawfully restrained competition. The court reasoned that “Apple’s current policy of requiring Sign In With Apple whenever any SSO product is offered … does not foreclose the use of other SSOs.” As such, the court determined that the defendant was not impermissibly restraining competition, but allowing it.
The court noted that Blix’s tying allegations fall not only because of their dependence on the monopoly claim, but also because they fail to set forth facts establishing the existence of a tying arrangement. Over Blix’s arguments otherwise, the court determined that after numerous attempts at amendment, re-pleading now would be futile.
An Apple spokesperson, in a statement provided to Law Street, said “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.”