App Store rules ruled unconstitutional by appeals court

By Richard Katz , CNN

CNN Tech Beat | Updated 28 October 2018

New rules for application submission into the Apple App Store could “amount to an unwarranted improvement in the quality of the apps that may be submitted,” a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

In a brief order, the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reversed an injunction issued by a US District Court in Los Angeles last December. The court said an injunction shouldn’t have been issued because the federal complaint “relates to claims not present in this court’s jurisdiction.”

A spokesperson for Apple declined to comment on the ruling.

In a statement in August, an Apple spokesperson said: “This was a very important victory for the developers of apps in the Apple App Store. The victory for the developers allows them to innovate and offer new services without worrying about potential approval delays. We’re excited to move forward with bringing App Store freedom to even more developers.”

The original lawsuit — filed in 2015 by two software companies — was brought in response to new rules imposed on the app ecosystem in 2015. The defendants, PAI Software Group and Randstad Software International, claimed the new rules for app submission were a violation of copyright, unfair competition and other related laws.

The lawsuit claimed that the “post update vetting” process, which may take as long as three weeks to review app proposals, “substantially slows down innovation.” It went on to contend that one of the new rules put a ban on paid “carte blanche” app submissions.

The pre-release app approval process in place before the 2015 changes was called an “a” process, which defined free applications as apps that were “paid with data or advertising for a specific set of personal benefits, such as weather updates, travel information, or answers to trivia questions,” according to the complaint.

The new review process, by contrast, was a “version” process, which defined all applications as “free” apps. And apps were unable to “pay for anything.”

An injunction was issued to prevent Apple from implementing the new policy. However, the court ruled Tuesday that the injunction did not apply to the pre-2015 post-update vetting process.

Only apps for iOS are currently reviewed in this new process, with it due to expand to Android apps next year.

Apple also updated the App Store rules on its website.

In a new section on “section 8 & 9” of the rules, Apple outlines what it calls “new or updated rules” for reviews.

“Current rules stipulate that users may not limit the features or functionality of the apps they use or use a smartphone or tablet in a way that enhances or distracts them from one of the app’s features,” the updated section reads. “This section incorporates this new rule.”

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