What you need to know
- Epic Games has had a motion to dismiss some of Apple's counterclaims against the company granted.
- Apple is countersuing Epic over claims it breached its contract by enabling a new payment method on Fortnite for iOS.
- A judge has dismissed Apple's claim that Epic's actions were intrinsically wrong, even without a contract.
Epic Games has been granted a motion to dismiss part of Apple's counterclaims against the company in its ongoing antitrust lawsuit.
As noted by Florian Mueller:
The case called Tuesday via Zoom, as the eyes of most of the tech industry were on Apple's November event, or the Xbox Series X/S launch. As Mueller notes at Foss Patents:
Epic Games just reduced the potential risk it incurs from its antitrust dispute with Apple over its App Store business terms: Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California granted an Epic motion for judgment on the pleadings on some of Apple's counterclaims. As a result, Apple's counterclaims (unless an appeals court revives the ones the judge just threw out) are limited to breach of contract, which Epic already acknowledged in October it would be liable for should it lose its antitrust case against Apple. Punitive damages, which Apple was seeking, are not available on this basis, so they won't have to be discussed at next year's trial.
Mueller notes that the court had always been skeptical of Apple's 'tort-based' arguments and that Apple was likely trying to keep them on the books for a possible appeal.
As noted by Bloomberg, Judge Gonzalez Rogers told Apple's lawyers that this was "a high-stakes breach of contract case and an antitrust case and that's all in my view", further noting Apple couldn't "just say it's independently wrongful."
As Mueller notes, these specific claims from Apple stated that Epic's actions went beyond a breach of contract, and could be considered wrong regardless of whether the two had a contractual agreement. Unconvinced, Judge Gonzalez Rogers tossed the claims, meaning Apple's counterclaim will continue against Epic, limited to whether the Fortnite developer acted in breach of contract. In a statement, Apple said:
"We respectfully disagree with the Court's decision and believe Epic's conduct should be actionable under California tort law. It is clear, however, that Epic breached its contract with Apple. For twelve years, the App Store has helped developers turn their brightest ideas into apps that change the world. Our priorities have always been to provide customers with a safe and trusted place to download software and to apply the rules equally to all developers. In ways the Court described as deceptive and clandestine, Epic enabled a feature in its app which was not reviewed or approved by Apple, and they did so with the express intent of violating the App Store guidelines that apply equally to every developer who sells digital goods and services. Their reckless behavior made pawns of customers, and we look forward to making it right for them in court next May.
"Apple also thanks the Court for providing next-generation attorneys the opportunity to argue a motion. We fully support this important policy that gives newer lawyers and those from underrepresented groups meaningful experience in court."
Epic sued Apple, over what it claims are anticompetitive practices and a monopoly on iOS app distribution, earlier this year after it enabled a new payment method in Fortnite on iOS in breach of App Store guidelines. The case is set for trial next year.