The US courts have provided injunctive relief for Epic in their court case against Apple over direct payments in Fortnite on iOS, halting the termination of Epic’s developer access to iOS and macOS for Unreal Engine, but not forcing Apple to allow Fortnite back onto the iOS App Store.
The ruling means that Unreal Engine will continue to be a viable platform for developers to use on iOS, but means that if Epic want Fortnite to return to the iOS App Store while this case remains in the courts, they will have to roll back the direct payment system that they implemented and resubmit it to Apple.
The Court quite plainly lay out what injunctive relief is for, as an “extraordinary and drastic remedy” intended to avoid irreparable harm from actions taken surrounding the court case. To succeed, the plaintiff (Epic in this case), must demonstrate four points:
- They are likely to succeed on the merits
- They are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief
- The balance of equities tips in their favour
- An injunction is in the public interest
With regard to Fortnite’s removal, the court says that “Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm. The current predicament appears of its own making. […] Epic Games remains free to maintain its agreements with Apple in breach status as this litigation continues.” By choosing to break the terms that they agreed to in order to list Fortnite on the iOS App Store in the first place, Epic have caused this situation themselves. Additionally, ” Epic Games admits that the technology exists to “fix” the problem easily by deactivating the “hotfix.” That Epic Games would prefer not to litigate in that context does not mean that “irreparable harm” exists.”
Further more, the Court seem a bit confused over why the hell this all apparently so urgent right now. There is already a lawsuit against Apple in the Court – Donald Cameron, et. al. v. Apple Inc., filed in June 2019 – which contests that Apple’s policies are monopolistic and anti-competitive:
The battle between Epic Games and Apple has apparently been brewing for some time. It is not clear why now became so urgent. The Cameron case which addresses the same issues has been pending for over a year, and yet, both Epic Games and Apple remain successful market players. If plaintiffs there, or here, prevail, monetary damages will be available and injunctive relief requiring a change in practice will likely be required.
However, with regard to removing all of Epic’s developer access and effectively blocking the Unreal Engine from iOS going forward, the Court saw this differently. While Apple citied this was an “historical practice”, the Court recognised that this would affect far more people and companies that just Apple and Epic – Microsoft’s statement of support here will surely have helped.
The record shows potential significant damage to both the Unreal Engine platform itself, and to the gaming industry generally, including on both third-party developers and gamers. […] Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate against each other, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders. Certainly, during the period of a temporary restraining order, the status quo in this regard should be maintained.
Not only this, but figuring out the damages for so many additional parties would be incredibly messy and difficult to do.
What’s perhaps most interesting is that the Court also weighed up the likelihood of Epic’s success in the full suit as part of its determination on whether to offer injunctive relief:
Epic Games moves this Court to allow it to access Apple’s platform for free while it makes money on each purchase made on the same platform. While the Court anticipates experts will opine that Apple’s 30 percent take is anti-competitive, the Court doubts that an expert would suggest a zero percent alternative. Not even Epic Games gives away its products for free.
Obviously this is not the final judgement or ruling, and different judges will have different opinions that can then be appealed and relitigated up to the highest courts in the land. It could be years before the case is settled – the aforementioned Cameron case hasn’t really moved since last June – so now we just have to wait and see what Epic decide to do.
The company made a big splash with their calculated decision to add direct payments to Fortnite, fully aware that there would be immediate repercussions. That was part of their plan, of course, releasing an in-game trailer that slammed Apple and kicking off a hashtag #FreeFortnite to rile up their fans against the company.
So now it’s up to Epic. Do they back down and let this go through the US courts, content that their marketing stunt will have raised awareness amongst Fortnite players that a new season is about to start? Or do they decide to keep their iOS and Google Play Store customers cut off from the new content, which would, as the Court says, be entirely their fault.
Source: Court Listener