Epic Games gets restraining order to keep Apple developer account but Fortnite ban remains

BY DUNCAN RILEYSHARE

Epic Games Ltd.’s lawsuit against Apple Inc. has delivered mixed results at its first hearing, as a judge issued a restraining order banning Apple from canceling Epic’s developer account but didn’t require Apple to restore Fortnite to its App Store.

The games company filed a lawsuit against Apple Aug. 13 alleging that Apple’s App Store is an illegal monopoly after Fortnite, the world’s most popular game, was banned. The move came after Epic added support for in-app payments, a breach of Apple’s terms and conditions.

Apple upped the ante by threatening to ban Epic’s developer account if it did not comply with those terms and conditions. A ban of Epic’s Apple developer account would not affect just Fortnite but also any company using Epic’s Unreal Engine, a gaming engine used by various third-parties including Microsoft Corp. that came out in support of Epic Aug. 23.

Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California accepted many of Epic’s arguments, saying that Apple can not retaliate against Epic Games by blocking its developer account or likewise restrict developers on Apple’s platform from accessing Unreal Engine tools.

“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,” Judge Rogers said. “Apple has chosen to act severely and by doing so, has impacted non-parties and a third-party developer ecosystem.”

Still, Epic’s attempt to have Fortnite restored to the App Store was not successful, at least for the time being. Rogers sided with Apple, noting that “the current predicament appears of [Epic’s] own making.”

“Your client created this situation,” Rogers told lawyers for Epic at the hearing according to Ars Technica. “Your client does not come to this action with clean hands… in my view, you cannot have irreparable harm when you create the harm yourself.”

In peak 2020 COVID-19 style, the entire hearing was held via teleconference facilitated by Zoom Video Communications Inc.

Although the hearing was only considering the injunction application filed by Epic Games and does not preclude its overall lawsuit against Apple, Rogers did note something that may be pertinent once the lawsuit goes to a full hearing.

“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,” Rogers wrote. “While the Court anticipates experts will opine that Apple’s 30% 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.”


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