Epic Games and Apple square off in court next May
If you love courtroom drama with twists and turns, make sure that your calendar is marked for May 3rd, 2021. Is that when we expect a new television series to air? Not exactly. On that date, the United States District Court of the Northern District of California will begin a bench trial for Epic Games v Apple, Inc. A bench trial is one with no jury and is decided by the presiding judge. The trial is being moved up from July to prevent scheduling conflicts with jury trials. The trial begins at 8:30 am PT (11:30 am ET).
The Epic Games via Apple trial will kick off on May 3rd unless some sort of settlement is reached
Even before the trial begins, there will several hearings held. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has labeled the case an important one in terms of the future of antitrust law in the U.S. If it pleases the court, we'd like to refresh your memory and explain what the argument is about between the developer of Fortnite and Apple. And if it doesn't please the court, well that is just too bad.
Back in August, those who downloaded Fortnite from the App Store were given the option to pay for in-app purchases through Epic's own in-house payment system at a 20% discount. This violated Apple's regulations that require all in-app purchases for App Store apps to be routed through Apple's own payment platform for in-app purchases. The firm takes a 30% cut of these transactions. As punishment, Apple kicked the popular game out of the App Store and also closed Epic's iOS and macOS developer accounts.
Epic has constantly brought up the idea that Apple is acting like a monopoly by forcing developers to use its in-app payment system. The developer keeps bringing this up in the hope that the judge will call Apple anti-competitive when it comes to app distribution (no third-party app stores can be accessed by iOS users) and in-app payment processing.
So far, Epic has been called out by Judge Gonzalez Rogers for knowing exactly what Apple would do if the game developer failed to follow the agreement that both parties signed off on. Therefore, the judge says that Epic itself created the problems it is facing (including the removal of Fortnite from the App Store). In addition, Apple has said that it would allow Fortnite to return to the App Store if Epic shuts its in-app payment port. Epic has said that without the court issuing a preliminary injunction against Apple blocking it from removing Fortnite from the App Store, the developer will suffer irreparable harm. To reiterate, the judge and Apple have pointed out that the game developer brought all of this on by itself. As Judge Rogers told Epic attorney Katherine Forrest, "In my view, you cannot have irreparable harm when you create the harm yourself."
Apple originally said that it preferred to have the case decided by a jury, but agreed to a bench trial in order to speed up the process. On the other hand, the judge originally wanted a trial by jury because of the case which she said "is important enough to understand what real people think." We know what Apple thinks, and that is that Epic's entire strategy is to create publicity for Fortnite to make up for sagging game sales.
Meanwhile, Epic did get the court to issue a temporary restraining order blocking Apple from removing Epic's Unreal Engine game engine from its platform. The game engine is used by developers to help them create 3D graphics for a game. The judge has already called Apple's attack on the Unreal Engine "an overreach."
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