Google countersues Epic Games with Apple's winning legal strategy, arguing breach of contract

The internet giant is fighting Fortnite maker Epic in court over the way it manages its Google Play Store.

Ian Sherr Contributor and Former Editor at Large / News
Ian Sherr (he/him/his) grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, so he's always had a connection to the tech world. As an editor at large at CNET, he wrote about Apple, Microsoft, VR, video games and internet troubles. Aside from writing, he tinkers with tech at home, is a longtime fencer -- the kind with swords -- and began woodworking during the pandemic.
Ian Sherr
2 min read

Epic and Google are fighting over how much money they get when you spend money in an app.

Epic Games

Last month, Apple was largely handed a major victory in its legal battles with Fortnite maker Epic Games. In a 185-page decision, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers agreed that Epic had breached its developer contract with Apple when it activated code hidden within its hit Fortnite battle game for the iPhone and iPad that violated App Store rules. In a countersuit filed Monday, Google showed it's a quick study.

In its 43-page filing, Google recounted how Epic had activated similarly hidden code within its app on the Google Play Store last year, which broke Epic's "contractually agreed" rules and led to the app's removal. Epic, Google said, then began a public relations campaign "intended to villainize and harm Google, while distracting from Epic's breach."

Google further argued that Epic "entered into a legal agreement with Google with which it never intended to comply" and that its actions "have put its own users at risk, have harmed Google, and are deserving of relief from this Court." Epic didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read more: Apple scores legal win over Epic in Fortnite lawsuit: What you need to know

Google's moves mark the latest escalation in the ongoing legal battles Epic's waging against the two tech titans. Epic argues that both Apple and Google are too controlling of their respective app stores, putting restrictions on what type of apps can be offered up for sale and how they function. Both companies also collect fees from app developers through what are known as in-app payments, when people buy digital goods like a subscription or a new look for their character within their app. The companies charge up to 30% commissions for those purchases, a price they've defended against growing drumbeats of criticism, including from Epic.

Epic's legal fights with Apple and Google began last year when it changed the way it charges people to buy items within its Fortnite game, circumventing each company's in-app payment systems and the commissions they charge. In its legal filing, Google said Epic "schemed willfully to violate the terms" of its developer agreement "to avoid paying Google anything at all." In the course of its trial with Apple, Epic admitted it had planned a public relations campaign to fight app store rules as part of its legal strategy.

Epic's legal battle with Google was effectively on hold until after its lawsuit with Apple concluded. Both Apple and Epic have since filed their plans to appeal aspects of Rogers' ruling in their suit