A federal judge on Friday granted Epic Games’ request to ban any action from Apple against the Unreal Engine, but rejected the game maker’s bid to reintroduce Fortnite to the App Store.
In his ruling, Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers partially and partially denied Epic’s preliminary injunction, which both sought to protect an associated developer account that maintains the Unreal Engine and force Apple to recover. Fortnite after it was withdrawn to implement a breach of direct payment option.
The ruling cements an earlier decision from August and ensures that the current situation remains unchanged through an ongoing lawsuit.
“While consumers are feeling the impact of this lawsuit, the fact remains: these are business disputes. A suspected class action lawsuit on behalf of all developers over the exact same issue was already underway when Epic Games broke the agreements,” Gonzales Rogers said today’s ruling. “Yet Epic Games has never adequately explained its rush, apart from its contempt for the situation. The current situation is of its own origin.”
Similarly, Apple failed to argue that maintaining Epic’s affiliate developer account – Epic International – poses a risk of irreparable damage. However, removing the account will deprive developers of access to the Unreal Engine.
“Apple’s aggressive targeting of separate contracts in an attempt to completely eradicate Epic Games and its affiliates from the iOS platform was unnecessary and exposed a thriving third-party developer ecosystem,” the lawyer wrote.
Apple issued a statement on the ruling AppleInsider:
Our customers depend on the App Store to be a safe and reliable place where all developers follow the same set of rules. We are grateful that the court acknowledged that Epic’s actions were not in the best interests of its own customers, and that any issues they may have experienced were of their own nature when they breached the agreement. For twelve years, the App Store has been an economic miracle and created transformative business opportunities for large and small developers. We look forward to sharing this legacy of innovation and dynamism with the court next year. “
At the end of September, Apple and Epic agreed that the case should be decided by the court instead of a jury. Negotiations are currently scheduled to begin in July 2021.
Summary of epic events
The dispute between Apple and Epic Games started publicly on August 13, after Epic updated “Fortnite” on iOS and Android with an independent payment method for in-app purchases, outside the rules of the App Store which required them to go through Apple’s mechanism. Epic also discounted purchases made through the new system to encourage use.
Within hours, Apple retrieved “Fortnite” from the App Store to ignore the App Store policy. Not long after, Epic filed a lawsuit demanding changes to the App Store guidelines, including a 30% reduction in in-app purchase commissions and allowing competing app stores to exist on iOS.
Epic also hinted that the appendix, the fallout and the lawsuit were expected by the company, as it also released a video parody of Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl commercial. The parody, which used “Fortnite” characters, framed Epic as breaking Apple’s control of the App Store and iOS ecosystem.
The marketing, to try and get their players to join Epic, continued later with the “FreeFortnite Cup” tournament, which offered a special skin and other prizes to participate. It also released a graphic for players to wear on their own clothes, and share the same “Free Fortnite” message.
On August 17, Apple threatened to stop Epic from accessing developer accounts and tools for iOS and Mac by August 28, which would have affected both “Fortnite” and Unreal Engine. Epic then filed a request for a temporary restraining order, which would prevent Apple from continuing to remove the “Fortnite” app and prevent “any adverse action” against the company.
In response to the request, Apple said that it was a “problem Epic has created for itself”, and a problem that can be easily solved with a compatible game update. Apple would not “make an exception for Epic because we do not think it is right to put business interests ahead of the guidelines that protect our customers.”
Another filing on August 21 from Apple included a chain of emails between the two companies, revealing that Epic had warned that it would implement a competing payment option in the game and an intention to create an Epic Games Store. Epic gave Apple two weeks to respond with an “in principle” confirmation of both concepts, otherwise it would only add to the payment system anyway.
Apple’s response to Epic pointed to how Epic had earned “hundreds of millions of dollars” from selling in-app content, before emphasizing the App Store guidelines that promoted security, privacy, content and quality standards.
Epic kicked back and said it would no longer follow Apple’s restrictions on payment processing, and would add the payment system to force Apple’s hand on the case. Epic later said that Apple’s argument against Epic’s ban on preventing access to tools was incorrect, as it violates Apple’s contracts and will affect developers who use the tools, not just Epic.
For the first hearing on August 24, Epic failed to demonstrate in court that it would suffer irreparable harm from a ban, with the judge following Apple saying it was Epic’s own action. The judge also ordered Apple not to take action against Epic Games International’s developer account, used to manage the licensing of Unreal Engine.
Starting with the second trial on September 5, Epic filed a lawsuit for a formal lawsuit alleging that Apple actively violated antitrust protection, forcing Epic to “comply with its illegal restrictions.”
Apple responded to Epic’s filing on September 8 with a counterclaim, one that demanded that Epic be held liable for breach of contract, in addition to banning the payment system in all Epic’s apps in the App Store. Apple also protested Epic’s portrayal of itself as a “modern company Robin Hood”, but instead compared it to a “multi-billion dollar company that simply will not pay for the enormous value it receives from the App Store. ”
Epic began telling customers Apple had access to Sign In with Apple on September 9, but by September 10, it changed the tune to say that Apple had offered an “indefinite extension” for the feature. Apple issued a statement stating that they did not actively seek to kill the Log in with Apple at all.
On September 16, Apple accused Epic of using its legal activity to market the game, which Apple believed was declining in popularity. Epic countered this by saying that Apple had “cherry-picked” its data, and that according to its own figures, daily users increased by “more than 39% in a few months.
During the second court hearing on September 28, Epic appeared to have failed in his attempts to get the judge to agree to it, and was admonished several times. This included the judge who emphasized that it was an incident of Epic, and it could easily reduce the damage by returning to the status quo.
Epic’s coercion by Apple’s hand was also acquired by the judge, including how Epic was initially not “direct” with Apple. There was even some withdrawal of Epic’s argument against Apple comparing a smartphone to a game console due to its size and portability, with the judge pointing out that the Nintendo Switch exists.
Updated with statement from Apple.