With six weeks of school having already flown by, everyone has gotten a bit more experience with Zoom classes than we might have wished for. By now you have probably been kicked out of a class when your WiFi failed, had your microphone stop working, and experienced the frustration of trying to convince someone of a point across a faltering video connection. Imagine, however, that rather than having your grade in the balance, you were arguing in court to uphold or destroy a system that defines modern smartphones with 2 trillion dollars at stake.
Even for a City student, it’s hard to imagine dealing with that much stress, but that is exactly what lawyers for the Apple and Epic Games corporations faced when they got up to speak in court on Monday. During the summer, Epic Games intentionally violated the Apple App Store’s developer agreement by introducing a direct payment method to their wildly popular video game Fortnite. With that violation they launched a well-planned legal crusade to end Apple’s 30% on all iOS in-app purchases and publish their own app store. You can read the full story of that conflict in our two part series App Store Battle Royale: Tech Giants Fight Over Fortnite and All the Crazy Details from the EPIC vs. Apple Fight.
That fight, while dramatic, did not see a full day in court until this past Monday and, unfortunately for Epic Games, their claims of a noble calling appear to have withered under the harsh light of trial law. Federal judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers declared that she was “not particularly persuaded” by any of Epic’s arguments, even going so far as to say that Epic’s choice to violate the agreement first and sue later was questionable. During a discussion of that decision, she contradicted one of Epic’s lawyers and said, “You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being forthcoming.” She also expressed doubt about Epic’s claim that their aggressive anti-Apple publicity campaign of the past few weeks was necessary self-defense, saying that Epic may well have gained more monetarily from the boost to public opinion of the company than they lost when Fortnite was removed from the App Store.
Overall the tone of the day seemed to be that Epic’s arguments aren’t necessarily wrong, but their lack of decorum, appeals to fans to oppose Apple, and generally aggressive behavior undermines their position in the eyes of the law. However, it should be noted that this hearing was not actually about the anti-monopoly case itself, addressing only Epic’s request for a preliminary injunction that would prevent Apple from blocking Fortnite while the main case makes its slow way through the courts.
Nevertheless, Judge Rogers does not seem inclined to grant the injunction so this may mean that Fortnite will stay gone from iOS until at least July 2021, when a full jury trial on this issue is expected to take place. Until then, we can only continue to watch for how Epic and Apple treat each other with so much at stake. So far the advertising in this particular fight has been a major point of contention in and of itself, and only time will tell whether the two tech giants will quiet down or continue to engage in barbed verbal sparring for the next nine months.