Apple battle with Epic Games goes to court next May

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Epic Games v. Apple gets serious next spring.
A fight between Epic Games and Apple gets real next May.
Graphic: Cult of Mac

A court case to decide the fate of Fortnite on Apple devices will kick off May 3, 2021. But the arguments Epic Games and Apple will take before a judge are about more than a single game, albeit a very popular one. The court’s decision might have far-reaching implications for the iPhone App Store and Apple’s business.

In a case scheduling and pretrial order, U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ordered a trial date of Monday, May 3. The two companies will argue in front of a judge, without a jury. Both companies said they preferred a bench trial.

Insert Epic Games v. Apple battle royale pun here

In mid August, Epic Games introduced the version of Fortnite that circumvented Apple’s requirement that the iPhone-maker receive 30% of in-app payments. The result was that Fortnite was booted from the App Store. Epic Games responded immediately with a lawsuit claiming that Apple’s revenue-sharing demand was possible only because it has a monopoly on iPhone application distribution.

The two have been arguing back and forth ever since. Epic Games is taking the stance that it’s fighting the unfair business practices of a monopolist. Apple puts the matter in more prosaic terms. In a court filing in September, it said, “Epic’s lawsuit is nothing more than a basic disagreement over money.”

Regulators will be watching

Epic Games v. Apple is going on while government regulators in America and Europe are looking closely at big tech companies to see if they are abusing their power. On Tuesday, the U.S. House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee released a report that suggests that Apple uses its operating systems and App Store to “create and enforce barriers to competition and discriminate against and exclude rivals while preferencing its own offerings.”

There’s little doubt that the Epic Games v. Apple case will be watched to see if it helps brand Apple as a monopolist or instead helps vindicate the iPhone-maker.