Epic's legal spat with Apple over App Store practices will spill over to Australia.
After a series of hearings and trials that stretched nearly nine months, Apple and Epic made their final pitches to a US District Court in California on May 24. Both companies now await Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers' decision, but that doesn't mean the litigation is over. After a successful appeal Thursday by Epic, the case will soon be brought to an Australian court.
At the center of the legal action is Apple's App Store. Epic's ultrapopular Fortnite was kicked off the iOS App Store in August after Epic built a direct payment system into the game that would allow it to bypass Apple's 30% fee for App Store purchases. Epic sued Apple immediately, accusing the company of anticompetitive practice. Epic argues that the App Store is monopolistic, that developers hoping to get their apps to customers have no choice but to go through the App Store -- and pay the fees associated with that. Apple calls Epic's lawsuit a marketing stunt and argues that the App Store gives developers access to a huge audience of iPhone and iPad users.
In November, Epic brought the issue to Australia, initiating proceedings against Apple by arguing that the iPhone-maker's practices contravene Australia's Competition and Consumer Act. Apple was able to appeal against the suit in April, arguing that the case should be settled in the US District Court. Epic quickly counter-appealed, arguing that public policy concerns justify a separate trial. Australia's Federal Court ruled in favor of Epic on Thursday.
"This is a positive step forward for Australian consumers and developers who are entitled to fair access and competitive pricing across mobile app stores," an Epic spokesperson said. "We look forward to continuing our fight for increased competition in app distribution and payment processing in Australia and around the world."
Apple plans to appeal the decision.
"The initial decision in April from Australia's Federal Court correctly ruled that Epic should be held to the agreement it made to resolve disputes in California. We respectfully disagree with the ruling made today and plan to appeal," a spokesperson said.
In addition to the US and Australia, Epic also sued Apple and Google in the UK and the European Union. A UK tribunal in February knocked Epic's suit against Apple back, reasoning that its courts weren't the place for the issue to be resolved.
Judge Rogers' decision is expected to be handed down sometime in the coming months. The outcome of the US lawsuit could change everything we know about how Apple's App Store works, and Google's Play store too. Rogers could force Apple to disregard its concerns over app security, allowing alternative app stores and payment processing into its devices. Legal experts, lawmakers and regulators are closely watching, seeing the case as a first look at how antitrust laws could apply to tech giants.