In addition to frequent patent-related disputes with various industry rivals and the odd institution of higher education, Apple’s legal department will every so often need to defend the world’s most profitable company from potentially costly class action lawsuits.

Typically, this sort of litigation comes to a quiet end as plaintiffs and the accused party reach mutually beneficial out-of-court settlements or cases are thrown out due to lack of merit. Not sure about the former, but Cupertino tried the latter approach to kill a rather thorny petition filed back in February in a San Jose, California District Court.

Judge Lucy Koh, who presided over several heated infringement battles between Apple and Samsung in the past half a decade, couldn’t be convinced of the iPhone makers’ arguments this time around, ruling the suit will go forward.

Essentially, plaintiffs Christina Grace and Ken Potter on behalf of themselves and other iPhone 4 and 4S users affected by similar issues claim their devices were rendered inoperable following a mandatory iOS 7 update a few years ago.

Upon returning to iOS 6, FaceTime functionality was allegedly disabled with the clear and reprehensible intention of saving company costs on a data relaying method replaced with cheaper technology in the latest then platform version.

The only way out was to buy a newer iPhone, otherwise users were left with the impossible choice of a completely “non-responsive, sluggish and extremely slow” handset or one lacking basic FaceTime support.

Now, Apple didn’t exactly deny the damning accusations, which might be the worst part of this matter, simply arguing iPhone 4 and 4S owners weren’t guaranteed “uninterrupted, continuous, or error-free” FaceTime service, especially as the video conferencing app was offered to them free of charge. But Judge Koh established the “feature is a component of the iPhone’s cost”, prominently advertised as “one more thing that makes an iPhone an iPhone.”

Thus, Apple had no right to cripple it, still facing a legal squabble that could end in damage payments of tremendous value.

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