After months talking about the Apple vs Epic Games showdownThe time has finally come when the arguments we have heard from both companies for months have to be submitted to the judicial arena before US District Judge Yvonne González Rogers in Oakland, California. The expulsion of Fornite from the App Store was the starting gun for a process in which, before seeing each other in court, both companies have tried to make their positions clear and, among other things, win the approval of public opinion .
There has been a lot of information about Apple vs Epic, as it was said before “rivers of ink have flowed”: public statements, previous phases of the legal case, accessions and samples of support by companies to both sides … What has happened so far?
Apple vs Epic: chronicle of events
Let’s take a quick look at the Apple vs Epic Games showdown: On August 13 of last year, Epic Games released a Fornite update offering players the ability to make in-app purchases bypassing Apple’s payment platform. Users who opted for this means of direct payment to Epic Games, would save 20% of the price. A 20% that, obviously, would come out of the 30% that Epic stopped paying Apple by avoiding its store.
Obviously, Apple (and also Google, who saw the same move by Epic) did not like this action and, consequently, removed Fornite from the App Store. A move that did not seem to surprise the developer, who less than an hour later I was already filing a lawsuit, requesting precautionary measures and, in addition, he published a video in which he claimed to have challenged the monopoly of the App Store, also parodying the mythical announcement of the presentation of the first Macintosh, an iconic element for those of Cupertino. The Apple vs. Epic legal showdown had begun.
Epic’s reaction speed was already suspicious at first, to the point of giving a clear impression that everything was ready, that is, that the developer was looking for and expecting that reaction from those of Cupertino. Less than a month ago, we had confirmation of this, when documents were revealed that showed that Epic had been preparing this action for some time, in order to promote Fornite. In other words, the Apple vs Epic confrontation had been cooking for a long time.
In response to the campaign started by Epic, Apple wanted to hit back, but it is possible that it was over-braking, since it tried to block, in the iOS and macOS App Store, any development based on Unreal Engine, the game development environment owned by Epic Games. In addition, Apple vs. Epic was joined by a counterclaim by Apple, in which it claimed that Epic was not the modern corporate Robin Hood, an image that the developer would be trying to project publicly.
This statement was Apple’s response to the samples of support that Epic obtained after its lawsuit, and which coincided in the assessment that Apple hinders competition both for the famous 30% and, above all, for not allowing the arrival of alternative stores to iOS. At that moment, The public side of the Apple vs Epic Games confrontation seemed to be won by the developer, but the counterclaim and Apple’s statements served to bring about changes in that regard.
And this is where it appears, for the first time, Judge Yvonne González Rogers, the magistrate on whom many looks will be placed in the coming weeks. Trained at Princeton University and the University of Texas School of Law, González was nominated in 2011 by then-President Barack Obama for the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, a position for which she was confirmed. by the Federal Senate in November of the same year.
In these years, the Apple vs Epic litigation It is not the first time in which you have to pass judgments related to Apple, with a ruling against the company, such as one stating that the 30% fee charged by Apple is “a cost that independent software developers pass on to consumers,” an argument we have recently heard in first conclusions of the European Commission on the Apple App Store.
It said that it was then, about to dismiss September of last year, when the judge responded to a request from Epic, in which the developer asked Apple to reverse the expulsion of Fornite and the blocking of those developed based on Unreal Engine from the App Store, and the first round of the Apple vs Epic fight was settled with a draw, since Apple had to unblock the publication of apps created with the Unreal Engine, due to the damage that the blockade could cause to third parties, but allowed Apple to keep Fornite out of the App Store.
This was strongly argued, González said that only Epic was to blame for the removal of Fortnite from iOS. «Your client created this situation“The judge told Epic attorneys at a hearing. «Your client does not come to this action with clean hands… in my opinion, you cannot suffer irreparable harm when you create the harm yourself«. This strong statement served to reverse part of the sympathy that Apple vs Epic had garnered the second.
In recent months, Epic has also charged Google, for the expulsion of Fornite from Google Play (which, remember, occurred at the same time as the expulsion from the Apple app store) and has tried to transfer the Apple vs Epic confrontation to the old continent, suing Apple and asking Fornite to return to the App Store. And so we come to the current situation.
What awaits us in the Apple vs Epic trial?
The Apple vs. Epic Games trial, which is expected to last three weeks, will focus on the question of what it means to have ‘monopoly power’ in the app market. And this is much more important than it might seem, since the ruling of the same will be decisive in what refers to what can and cannot be done by those responsible for the platforms, mainly Android and iOS, in relation to the distribution of apps from its stores, and in the case of Apple in terms of maintaining the exclusivity of the distribution of software for iOS.
And it is that the objective of Epic is not that Fornite can return to the iOS App Store. No, the true objective of the developer, and what makes the significance of this judgment so high, is to be able to bring your own app store to iOS. And, of course, it is not necessary to go through the Apple App Store to get to it. Something that is possible on Android, but not on Apple’s operating system for its devices.
«To be clear, Epic does not seek to force Apple to provide distribution and processing services for free, nor does it seek to enjoy Apple services without paying for them.“Epic wrote in a pretrial motion. «What Epic wants is the freedom not to use the App Store or IAP (in-app purchase) of Apple, but to use and offer competitive services«. And that is why, what the judge in the Apple vs Epic case decides can be so relevant to the app market, a multi-million dollar market, let’s not forget.
For Epic, Apple has created a monopoly, by channeling all input from apps to your devices through the App Store. And although Google also maintains control over what is published and what is not published on Google Play, any developer can create another application store for Android, which users can install and use at will. This model, rejected by Apple, is the one that Epic wants justice to impose on those in Cupertino, setting a legal precedent that could change Apple’s business model forever.
Apple, for its part, defends that the App Store, with its control and validation processes, are a key element to guarantee that the apps that reach iOS comply with the company’s high standards of privacy, security, content and quality. According to those of Cupertino, a second store on iOS not controlled by them, would pose a security threat to iOS users. This is not, however, the main argument of the Cupertinos in the Apple vs. Epic case.
Apple claims that the monopoly charge is ridiculous, since Fortnite is available on competing platforms such as Android, Windows, and MacOS, as well as on video game consoles. And in the case of consoles, at least, the platform holders often impose equally restrictive terms for accessing exclusive game download stores. «Fortnite does not have the right to access everyone in the world«, Argue Apple’s lawyers in September. «They just need alternatives [a iOS] available, and they have them in abundance«.
So, in Apple’s vision iOS is only a small fraction of the market, and therefore would not be exercising a monopolistic action, since Epic continues to have access to a large part of it on other platforms. An argument that, added to the knowledge that users have of how iOS works when acquiring an iPhone, and the value offered by the security protection of the App Store, seek to avoid the accusation of monopoly.
During these weeks we will see a multitude of declarants parade, including the heads of both companies, Tim Cook and Tim Sweeney, long-awaited statements that will act as a speaker for public opinion of the positions defended by both companies. Neither is expected to be particularly influential in the Apple vs. Epic case, but they will undoubtedly be the most high-profile moments of the trial.
The first week of Apple vs Epic we will see the witnesses of the developer, for the second the appearances of experts in competition and monopoly are expected in the most technical terms, and the third will be in which Apple will argue its position. Appearances from third parties, such as Microsoft, Valve and others, are also expected to talk about app stores.
And once the hearings are concluded, Judge González will have to decide if either of the two parties is right or if, as possible, there is some intermediate position, in which Apple should open its hand regarding the conditions of the App Store, in exchange for being able to maintain control over all the software that accesses your devices. It is still too early to try to deduce how Apple vs Epic will end, but the truth is that it seems unlikely that there will not be any change that will inevitably affect the software distribution model through application stores.