who follow the smartphone industry knew that Apple and AT&T had
tight contract with the iPhone which has compelled the
electronics maker to stay AT&T exclusive to date. However,
it was unclear just how long that contract was good for, until now.
According to unsealed
court documents uncovered by Engadget, AT&T has exclusive rights to sell the iPhone
in the U.S. until 2012.The documents come from a California
antitrust class action lawsuit. The plaintiffs claim that
Apple attempted to create an illegal monopoly in 2007 when it failed
to reveal that the secret deal would make it impossible for them to
transfer their phones to other carriers in 2 years, without
unlocking.The case also accuses Apple of antitrust violations
for blocking third party applications, a concern that still exists
thanks to Apple's
blocking of Flash and Flash
ports, actions the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is currently
examining for antitrust violations.The court documents read:
duration of the exclusive Apple-[AT&T] agreement was not 'secret'
either. The [plaintiff] quotes a May 21, 2007 USA Today article
– published over a month before the iPhone's release – stating,
"AT&T has exclusive U.S. distribution rights for five
years-an eternity in the go-go cellphone world."..."[T]here
was widespread disclosure of [AT&T's] five-year exclusivity and
no suggestion by Apple or anyone else that iPhones would become
unlocked after two years... Moreover, it is sheer speculation – and
illogical – that failing to disclose the five-year exclusivity term
would produce monopoly power...
the contract with AT&T is surely tight, it's possible Apple could
payoff AT&T to cancel the contract, attempt to amend it, or
declare it breached and fight it out in court. There's a very
real possibility, though, that it will simply stick it out till 2012,
which would mean that 3 more years, and the next two iPhone models
would be AT&T exclusive (in the U.S.).