Epic Games slams Apple for ‘unlawful’ App Store policies in new legal filing

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Epic Games launching Apple mocking #FreetheFortnite Tournament.
Image: Epic Games

“Fortnite” developer Epic Games slammed Apple for maintaining “unlawful” App Store policies in a new court filing. The studio also stated it breached its contract with the iPhone maker to push back against its alleged “monopoly control.” The two companies have been engaged in a legal battle since August regarding the Big Tech firm’s ecosystem payment practices.

Because of Epic’s framing, its fight with Apple has larger implications than just legal fees and damages.

The Epic-Apple Legal Battle Update

Two months ago, Epic kicked off its fight with Apple by offering users updating “Fortnite” with a new in-game store. The system enabled players to transact directly with the studio without Apple’s involvement. In response, Apple removed the popular battle royale game from its ecosystem, which prompted a lawsuit from Epic.

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Since then, the two corporations have exchanged legal filings that have raised the stakes of their conflict.

Apple argues it booted Epic from its network because it violated its terms of service. It also declared that the developer’s actions represent a threat to its online marketplace and the consumers who use it. As a consequence, the corporation filed claims against the studio, including one seeking breach of contract related damages last month.

Epic contends that Apple’s 30 percent online transaction fees are outrageous and a monopolistic imposition on its business. The firm argues the App Store is unnecessary and exists to exploit game and application developers. The studio asserts its offending update represented a rebellion against an illegal practice.

Spotify and Match Group, the developer of dating app Tinder, have publically expressed support for Epic’s position.

The fight between the two corporations escalated last month when Apple sought to close Epic’s developer account. The studio filed an injunction to stop the move because losing the ability to update products like its Unreal Engine platform would devastate its business. The studio also asked the court to force Apple to restore “Fortnite” to its digital ecosystem.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Epic’s developer account should be left active but upheld Apple’s right to remove “Fortnite” from its marketplace. Before making her latest rulings, Judge Rogers recommended Epic and Apple’s case go in front of a jury in July 2021.

Game-Changing Implications

Regardless of which firm emerges as the winning party, the Epic-Apple court battle will have a major impact on Silicon Valley.

If Apple prevails, it will have legal precedent to defend the way it administers its App Store. It could cite the case when addressing the European Union’s probe into its lawfulness business practices. The corporation could also use the ruling to fend off any potential antitrust action taken by the U.S. government.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently filed a lawsuit against Google for its alleged anticompetitive practices, and the iPhone manufacturer might be next. The House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee published a report earlier this month arguing Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google all engage in monopolistic behavior. But if the corporation wins its fight with Epic, Washington could decide pursuing action against the tech titan is a losing proposition.

If Epic proves its claims against Apple, “Fortnite” and its in-game store would likely be reinstated on iOS. Subsequently, the iPhone maker could not block other developers from launching their own App Store bypasses. That could result in a massive reduction of Apple’s services revenue and lawsuits from other developers seeking to reclaim from previously paid transaction fees.

The ruling could also impact how Google, Sony, and Microsoft operate their digital marketplace.

Since Epic and Apple possess immense financial resources, their court fight probably will not meet a quick resolution. The losing side has the money to file appeals that will take years to adjudicate. Nevertheless, the case will be settled, and its implications will stretch beyond the purchase availability of the latest “Fortnite” dance.

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