Epic Games didn’t fare well in its most recent court date with Apple. In the latest hearing for Epic’s antitrust lawsuit against Apple, a judge berated Epic for being dishonest and urged the company to take the case in front of a jury.
Epic, who created the popular battle royale game Fortnite, has been in a longstanding, very public battle with Apple over its App Store commission fees since July. In protest of the App Store’s 30% commission fee, which it charges on every in-app purchase made through the App Store, Epic updated the Fortnite app to include a new feature allowing users to pay Epic directly through the app, leading to its removal from the App Store.
Just last week, Epic and a number of other developers founded the Coalition for App Fairness, an organization set up to challenge Apple’s standards.
Another hearing was held on Monday over Zoom. It lasted three hours and resulted in, well, nothing but Epic being scolded by Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. To be fair, the point of Monday’s court case wasn’t to resolve the entire issue, but to see if Judge Gonzalez Rogers would grant Epic a preliminary injunction that would allow Fortnite to remain on the App Store until it has been, which is meant to be next Summer.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers said she wasn’t persuaded by Epic’s arguments, according to a report by CNN. When Epic argued it should be omitted from paying Apple’s 30% commission – which is meant to give customers a safe and secure way to download apps – because it is a reputable company that has been on the App Store for years, and so is not a security threat, Judge Rogers was skeptical.
“You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming. That’s the security issue. That’s the security issue!” she said. “There are a lot of people in the public who consider you guys heroes for what you guys did, but it’s still not honest.”
Epic retaliated by admitting it had violated Apple’s rules, but only because it was protesting the company’s anti-competitive agenda. It also argued that tens of millions of Apple Fortnite users had been harmed by being caught in the crossfire when Fortnite was removed and said Apple has bundled its App Store and in-app payment system together – known as tying – which would directly violate antitrust laws.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers still wasn’t persuaded, saying that “walled gardens have existed for decades,” citing that Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft do the same. “What Apple’s doing is not much different,” she said. “It’s hard to ignore the economics of the industry, which is what you’re asking me to do.”
The Judge also urged Epic to take its case in front of a jury, because the higher courts would be less likely to overturn the result. “It is important enough to understand what real people think,” said Judge Gonzalez Rogers, according to The Verge. “Do these security issues concern people or not?”
This court date didn’t give us the answers we were after but it did give a glimpse of Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ early opinions of the case, which may well be a signal of how things might turn out next Summer.