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Case Over Apple-AT&T Exclusive Moves Ahead

OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A federal judge on Tuesday declined to dismiss an antitrust class action over Apple's five-year iPhone exclusivity deal with AT&T.

Lead plaintiff Zack Ward claims in a 2012 class action that Apple and mobile carrier AT&T entered into a five-year exclusivity agreement shortly before the iPhone was introduced in 2007.

According to the complaint, Apple enforced the agreement by putting SIM card locks on iPhones without telling customers. If customers wanted an iPhone, they were unknowingly bound to use AT&T for five years even though they signed only two-year wireless service contracts with AT&T.

After hearing Apple's motion to dismiss the lawsuit on Monday, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers decided to keep the case in court.

Rogers found that "the defendant's argument relies on an accompanying request for judicial notice of certain evidence that is not appropriate for consideration on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim."

She did write in her ruling, however, that she will "entertain a narrow motion for summary judgment by defendant on the issue of whether the complaint alleges a relevant market," giving Apple until Feb. 2 to file the motion.

Mark Rifkin, who represents the plaintiffs, said in an email that "we look forward to proving to the court that the relevant market created by Apple in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy is the market for iPhone voice and data service."

Apple's arguing attorney did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment on Tuesday afternoon.

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