A federal judge on Monday said she was “inclined” to grant Epic Games’ request to block Apple Inc’s move to terminate the “Fortnite” creator’s developer accounts and said she saw “no competition” to Apple’s App Store on the iPhone.
The maker of the popular “Fortnite” battle game alleges that Apple has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour by abusing its dominance in the market for iPhone apps.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said during a hearing that she viewed Epic’s request through “two lenses” The other was what harm would come to the hundreds of other games that would be hurt if Epic was unable to maintain its Unreal Engine software because Apple terminated all of the company’s Apple developer contracts.
“I will tell you right now that I am likely not to grant relief with regard to the games, but I am inclined to give relief with regard to the Unreal Engine,” Gonzalez Rogers said.
Unreal Engine is a software tool for computer graphics that hundreds of other games and other apps use to power their offerings.
Apple removed Epic’s “Fortnite” after Epic rolled out its own method of in-game purchases, rather than using Apple’s system, which charges commissions of between 15% and 30%.
Epic Games has asked the court to block the removal of “Fortnite” from Apple’s App Store, claiming the App Store rules violate antitrust laws.
Gonzalez Rogers highlighted Apple’s ban on downloading iPhone apps from outside the App Store in an exchange with Apple counsel Richard Doren.
“There is not any competition. The question is, without competition, where does the 30% (App Store commission) come from? Why isn’t it 10? 20? How is the consumer benefiting from, you (Apple) get to say what you want it to be?” she asked.
Doren replied that consumers had choices when deciding to buy an Android device or an iPhone. “The competition is in the foremarket”, he said, reiterating an argument that has been central to Apple CEO Tim Cook’s defence during Congressional anti-trust hearings.
Gonzalez Rogers replied that there was”plenty of economic concept” to show that switching brands imposed costs on consumers.
During a terse exchange, Gonzalez Rogers at one point muted Doren in the virtual proceedings. Doren later said Apple would prove at trial that “people switch all of the time.”
“It’ll be interesting, like I said,” Gonzalez Rogers responded.
The team at Platform Executive hope you have enjoyed this news article. Initial reporting via our content partners at Thomson Reuters. Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco. Editing by Leslie Adler.
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