Florida security startup Corellium LLC wins lawsuit against Apple

A federal judge has dismissed Apple Inc’s copyright infringement claims against a Florida startup which makes software to help security researchers find vulnerabilities in Apple products, including in its iPhone.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Smith ruled in favor of Corellium LLC saying its software which emulates Apple’s iOS operating system that runs iPads and iPhones, amounted to “fair use” since it was “transformative” and helped developers find security vulnerabilities.

Apple has accused Corellium of replicating iOS to create “virtual” iOS-operated devices, whose “sole function” was to run unauthorized copies of the system on non-Apple hardware.

District Judge Rodney Smith however opined that Corellium “adds something new to iOS” by letting users see and halt running processes, take live snapshots, and conduct other operations.

“Corellium’s profit motivation does not undermine its fair use defense, particularly considering the public benefit of the product,” wrote Smith in the ruling.

He also rejected Apple’s argument that Corellium acted in bad faith by selling its product indiscriminately, including potentially to hackers, and by not requiring users to report bugs to Apple.

That argument appeared “puzzling, if not disingenuous,” said Smith especially since Apple does not impose a reporting requirement under its own Bug Bounty Program.

Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comments.

Corellium has denied wrongdoing, said Justin Levine, one of the startup’s lawyers while adding, the ruling shows “proper findings in connection with fair use.”

Apple may pursue a federal law claim that Corellium circumvented its security measures when creating its software, said Smith.

Corellium was founded in August 2017.

According to court records, Apple had tried to acquire Corellium starting in January 2018, but after talks broke down Apple sued the startup in August 2019.

The case is Apple Inc v. Corellium LLC, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 19-81160.

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