In the last few weeks, Apple has been embroiled in a lawsuit brought by Vodafone against T-Mobile of Germany. In an initial ruling, a German court enforced an injunction against T-Mobile’s exclusive right to sell a locked iPhone only. To comply with the order, T-Mobile began selling an unlocked version of the handset for 999 euros, as compared to a locked version of the same device that sells for 399 euros. The Hamburg District Court ruled today that T-Mobile can sell the iPhone with a two-year service contract and doesn’t have to sell iPhones that are free from the 24 month commitment.
“We are pleased with the outcome,” T-Mobile spokesman Rene Bresken said. Shares of Deutsche Telekom gained 1.2 percent after the decision to 15.28 euros ($22.41) in Frankfurt.
Orange, the French company that won the contract to sell iPhones in France, followed the injunction ordered by the German court and sold both locked and unlocked versions of Apple’s product. The unraveling of the exclusive right to sell the iPhone with a two-year contract may have affected Apple’s dealings with other service providers around the World. Apple had been negotiating with China Mobile to sell the iPhone in China but talks have stalled recently. The iPhone is to be launched in other Asian markets in 2008. Today’s ruling gives new life to the exclusivity of the iPhone.
We’ll have to wait and see if Orange gives up on selling an unlocked version of the iPhone. I’m sure Apple is putting what pressure it can on Orange to cease selling unlocked handsets. Apple shares in the revenue generated from carriers that sell locked iPhones and opening any legitimate sales of unlocked devices puts the concept of a locked iPhone in jeopardy.