Epic v. Apple: The Legal Showdown Shaping App Store Dynamics

Sep 8, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology and commerce, a legal battle has been unfolding between two giants in the tech world: Epic Games and Apple. The Epic v. Apple litigation, which began in August 2020, has far-reaching implications for the future of app store policies, competition, and payment systems. Below, we'll delve into the context, timeline, and the latest developments in the legal proceedings.

Context: The Spark That Ignited the Fire

At the heart of the conflict lies Epic Games' challenge to Apple's App Store policies, particularly their anti-steering restrictions, which enforces the requirement that apps must exclusively use Apple's own in-app payment system, which is accompanied by a commission fee of up to 30%. Epic argued that this practice amounted to anti-competitive behavior, limiting consumer choice and stifling fair competition within the app ecosystem.

Timeline: Key Developments That Shaped the Battle

August 2020: Epic Games challenges Apple's App Store policies, marking the beginning of the legal battle.

September 2021: A judgment is rendered by the U.S. District Court, largely favoring Apple, but finding that Apple's anti-steering provision violated California's Unfair Competition Law. The judge issues a permanent injunction which blocks Apple from prohibiting developers from adding in game messaging and linking to alternative payment options. Apple files an appeal.

April 2023: The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the injunction reinforcing the requirement that Apple allow app developers to include links within their apps that direct users to external websites offering alternative payment methods.

June 2023: Apple and Epic Games both seek a review of the April 2023 Ninth Circuit decision. Apple aims to challenge the permanent injunction. Epic challenges the decision that Apple's control over the App Store did not breach antitrust laws.

July 2023: Apple seeks intervention from the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the injunction related to alternative payment methods, signaling a last-ditch effort to change the course of the legal proceedings.

July 2023: While waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court, Apple is granted a delay in implementing the changes to its App Store policies to officially permit in-game messaging and linking.

September 2023: Epic requests that the Supreme Court take up its case against Apple over alleged anti-competitive App Store practices, asking the Court to review the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and the District Court's rulings from September 2021 and April 2023 that both determined Apple did not have a monopoly on mobile gaming.

The Latest: Navigating Ongoing Developments

Apple's appeal to the Supreme Court and its bid to delay the implementation of policy changes highlights their determination to shape the outcome of the litigation. As the legal saga continues to unfold, with twists and turns that impact app developers, consumers, and tech giants alike, the tech and gaming worlds eagerly watch to see how this high-stakes legal showdown will ultimately influence the future of app stores and payment systems worldwide.

What this means for Studios

Major platforms, including Apple and Google, allow developers to offer webshops where players can purchase in-game items out of app. While in-game messaging and linking to webshops are not currently permitted, developers are able to share information about the shop via other channels out of the app, such as email, text, or social media.

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