Apple’s 'Fortnite' Dispute Goes to Trial

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The dispute between Apple and Epic Games has been the highlight of the gaming community for a while now. The dispute took a legal turn when both parties approached the judiciary. The court held the first hearing over a three-hour-long video conference, during which both parties presented their cases in front of a judge for the first time.

The case is under the supervision of Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers. After the conclusion of the hearing, the judge made two important decisions.

Firstly, Judge Gonzales denied the restraining order that Epic Games had demanded, which would have helped Epic reinstate Fortnite back to the Apple Store. The second decision, however, looks good for Epic. The judge proposed to elevate the case above a single person’s ruling. Therefore, she called for a ‘Jury Trial’ in order to decide the case.

Apple vs. Epic Games: Detailed summary of the hearing

The case revolves around anti-trust accusations made by Epic against Apple. This came after Apple had removed Fortnite from the App Store. This had come as a response to Epic introducing a bypass payment method to avoid the 30% commission on in-app purchases. While most of the arguments delivered in the hearing were similar to those laid down in the motions and filings submitted by the parties, there we a few new insights that came to light.

The first one was regarding Epic’s belief in Apple creating a monopoly. The judge questioned this belief to which Epic’s legal team replied, “63% of iOS Fortnite players only play on Apple’s platform. Since Apple prevents Epic from running its own store, and iOS users spend more money than those on Android, they are more valuable to Epic — but Apple is currently cutting them off.”

Epic noticed a fall of 60% in daily active users after the Apple fiasco.

Apple’s legal team countered that by highlighting that Epic hadn’t proven that players can’t switch to a different platform and also added that only 10% of players played the game on iOS on a regular basis.

“You were not forthright”

Another major debate revolved around whether in-app purchases are a separate commodity/service or part of the game itself. While Epic used the examples of Lyft, Uber, or Amazon Prime Video to describe how Apple allows certain apps to use commission-free direct payment, Apple argued that IAPs do not qualify for the same. Judge Gonzales followed up on the observation, stating her belief that IAPs aren’t a separate product.

Moreover, both sides made arguments relating to the nature of Epic’s move. “You were not forthright. You were told you couldn’t do it, and you did,” the judge added while agreeing to Apple’s claims that the move was an intentional ‘sabotage’.

Apple’s 'Fortnite' Dispute Goes to Trial

Future of the dispute

While aren’t seeking damages, they are after a ruling that would prevent Apple from blocking Fortnite and allow the developer to take direct payments without paying the 30% fee. Apple, meanwhile, is seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees and interest, plus restitution and disgorgement for all earnings, profits, and other allegedly ill-gotten revenues Epic has received while violating its terms of service.

The fate of this case now rests in the hands of a jury. Gonzales said, “I don’t think individual judges have the be-all and end-all here.” Gonzales Rogers expects the trial to begin in July 2021 at the earliest.

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