I rarely pay much attention to lawsuits involving Apple on iPhone J.D. We all know it doesn't take much more than a filing fee to initiate a lawsuit, so the fact that a lawsuit is filed against Apple is not an indication that Apple has done anything wrong, and lawsuits are often settled just because it is more efficient to resolve them that way versus paying to litigate and win a case in court. Nevertheless, after the iPhone 4 was released on June 24, 2010, there was a lot of discussion in the news about the unique antenna. By placing the antenna outside of the phone, there was more space inside of the phone which allowed the iPhone 4 to be both more powerful and thinner. Unfortunately, placing the antenna in that location had the potential to reduce the capabilities of the antenna depending upon a number of factors, such as how you hold the phone. The issue got enough attention that Apple finally held a press conference on July 16, 2010 to discuss how Apple developed and tested the iPhone 4 antenna and to announce that Apple would give out free iPhone 4 cases, such as the "Bumper" model sold by Apple, to any iPhone 4 customer who wanted one.
A number of lawsuits were filed alleging that the iPhone 4 antenna was defective. These cases were consolidated for multidistrict litigation (MDL) treatment before Judge Ronald M. Whyte of the Northern District of California in San Jose. In re Apple iPhone 4 Products Liability Litig., No. 5:10-MD-2188 (N.D. Cal.).
On February 10, 2012, Plaintiffs in the MDL lawsuit filed a notice that a settlement had been reached and attached a copy of a settlement agreement signed on January 24, 2012 by Jeff Rishner (Director, Litigation at Apple, Inc.), Apple's outside counsel at Morrison, Forester, and counsel from five plaintiff law firms including Ira Rothken.
The terms of the settlement include the following. The class is defined as: "All United States residents who are or were the original owners of an iPhone 4." (Apple employees, agents, etc. are excluded.) Apple is providing class members with two options. First, Apple will continue to provide free Bumpers until 18 months after it discontinues the iPhone 4. Second, Apple will provide class members with $15, but only if they certify in a claims form that (1) they experienced antenna problems with their iPhone 4, (2) they completed the troubleshooting steps on Apple's website at www.apple.com/support/iphone/assistant/calls, (3) they "could not have returned their iPhone 4 without incurring any costs" and (4) there were unwilling to use a free bumper for the iPhone 4. Apple agrees to pay the cost of notifying class members of the settlement, including an e-mail to everyone in Apple's warranty registration database and a quarter-page notice in USA Today and Macworld magazine. Apple also agrees to not oppose an award to Plaintiffs' counsel for attorneys fees and costs of up to $5.9 million. Click here for a copy of the full settlement agreement.
On February 17, 2012, Judge Whyte granted conditional class action certification for the purposes of settlement and approved of the settlement. The deadline for opting out of the settlement is June 15, 2012 and a final fairness hearing is scheduled for July 13, 2012. Kurtzman Carson Consultants LLC is the settlement administrator. The settlement website (which goes live on March 28, 2012) will be www.iPhone4settlement.com.
I continue to believe that this issue was overblown by the media. Every design feature involves tradeoffs, and I love the small size of the iPhone 4 that was made possible by the antenna design. I used to occasionally use an iPhone 4 Bumper, not because of the antenna but instead because it added some friction, and I gradually found myself using it less and less until I stopped using it altogether. Ever since I upgraded to the iPhone 4S with its similar antenna design, I haven't found the need to use a Bumper for any purpose and I almost always carry around my iPhone 4S without any cover at all. I suspect that this could be one of those settlements where the plaintiff attorneys make more money than all of the class members combined, but it is good to finally put this issue to rest so that now we can do more important things, such as speculate about what will be in the iPad 3 and the iPhone 5.