Judge Issues Split Ruling in Epic v. Apple

Posted on October 10, 2020 by Paul Thurrott in Apple, Games, iOS, iPadOS, Mobile gaming with 1 Comment

Tim Sweeney, CEO and founder of Epic Games. Source: Travis Dove for The New York Times

As expected, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has ruled that Apple can ban Fortnite from its App Store. But it can’t retaliate against the Unreal Engine.

“In this motion for preliminary injunction, Epic Games asks the Court to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite to the Apple App Store, despite its acknowledged breach of its licensing agreements and operating guidelines, and to stop Apple from terminating its affiliates’ access to developer tools for other applications, including Unreal Engine, while Epic Games litigates its claims,” the ruling explains of the case. “Having carefully considered the parties’ arguments … the Court maintains its findings from the temporary restraining order and hereby grants in part and denies in part Epic Games’ motion for a preliminary injunction.”

That the Judge split the decision in this manner is not at all surprising. But she did have some encouraging words for Epic Games and its case against Apple.

“Epic Games has strong arguments regarding Apple’s exclusive distribution through the iOS App Store, and the in-app purchase (‘IAP’) system through which Apple takes 30 percent of certain IAP payments,” the ruling notes. “However, given the limited record, Epic Games has not sufficiently addressed Apple’s counter-arguments. The equities, addressed in the temporary restraining order, remain the same.”

In other words, for now, Fortnite will remain banned from the App Store because Epic Games violated Apple’s policies. And Apple is restrained from retaliating against Epic by not providing it access to Apple’s developer tools; Apple also cannot ban the use of Epic’s Unreal Engine, which powers many popular third-party game titles. So now the two firms can head to court, unless there’s a settlement down the road. And we’ll see whether Epic resubmits Fortnite to the App Store, minus the custom in-app payment system that got it in trouble with Apple in the first place.

“Epic Games is grateful that Apple will continue to be barred from retaliating against Unreal Engine and our game development customers,” an Epic Games statement says of the ruling. “We will continue developing for Apple’s platforms and pursue all avenues to end Apple’s anti-competitive behavior.”

“We are grateful that the Court recognized that Epic’s actions were not in the best interests of its own customers and that any problems they may have encountered were of their own making when they breached their agreement,” an Apple statement notes.

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