Apple, Inc. v. Pepper

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Antitrust
  • Date Filed: May 13, 2019
  • Case #: 17-204
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: KAVANAUGH, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which GINSBURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. GORSUCH, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ROBERTS, C. J., and THOMAS and ALITO, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois established a bright-line rule authorizing direct purchasers to bring suit against alleged antitrust violators.

Respondents (phone owners) purchased applications (apps) directly from Petitioner (technology company) through their App Store, with Petitioner receiving a 30% commission. Respondents sued Petitioner alleging that Petitioner unlawfully monopolizes the app market and forces phone owners to pay “higher-than-competitive prices.”  Petitioner argued that Respondents were not “direct purchasers” and, therefore, could not maintain an antitrust suit under Illinois Brick Co. v. Illinois, 431 U.S. 720 (1977). The district court held in favor of Petitioner, deciding that Respondents were not direct purchasers and could not sue. The Ninth Circuit reversed and the Supreme Court affirmed, holding that, under Illinois Brick, Respondents were direct purchasers according to the text of antitrust laws and Supreme Court precedent. The Court reasoned that section 2 of the Sherman Act makes it unlawful to “monopolize any part of . . . trade” and that section 4 of the Clayton Act permits any person injured by alleged antitrust violations to bring suit. Furthermore, the Court reasoned that precedent, specifically Illinois Brick, states that direct purchasers may bring suit against alleged antitrust violators and that “the absence of an intermediary is dispositive.” Therefore, Respondents are direct purchasers that may maintain suit against Petitioner for alleged antitrust violations. AFFIRMED.

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