Here's how long the Apple vs. DOJ battle could last

  • The DOJ's antitrust lawsuit against Apple could take years to reach a conclusion.

  • But a settlement "in some form" is likely to be reached sooner, Wedbush analysts predict.

  • The impact of a settlement on Apple's business would vary depending on the level of any concessions.

After the federal government filed a bombshell antitrust lawsuit against Apple, the tech giant looks poised for a long and vigorous legal battle as it defends itself against allegations that it used anticompetitive practices to illegally maintain a smartphone monopoly.

Apple says the lawsuit gets the facts and the law wrong and plans to vigorously defend itself. That legal process, one analyst group predicts, could stretch out years in a worst-case scenario for Apple — but a settlement is more likely.

Analysts at Wedbush Securities on Thursday wrote that they believe a settlement is the most likely resolution to the suit brought by the US Department of Justice.

Wedbush predicted that "ultimately a settlement will be reached in some form likely over the next 12 to 18 months."

The firm added that the extended timeline of the case means that Apple is unlikely to make any operational changes in the short term.

In its note, Wedbush analysts examined the bull case ("an Apple victory with not much change to the current ecosystem"), base case ("a hefty fine with some financial impact from small business model adjustments"), and the bear case ("broad change in the Apple playbook, business model overhaul") for how things could pan out for Apple.

Wedbush suggested that the worst-case scenario for Apple, in which Apple is found guilty and forced to make sweeping changes to how it does business, is "unlikely." The bull case, in which Apple prevails against most of the charges, is "less likely," according to the analysts.

Most likely, the analysts wrote, is a resolution in which Apple negotiates a compromise with the DOJ, pays a large fine, and makes concessions that impact its revenue from the App Store and possibly iPhone sales.

The report noted that Apple is currently facing headwinds "on all fronts": legal challenges in the United States and European Union, and intense competition in the Chinese smartphone market.

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