Apple vs Epic Games Antitrust Trial Resumes in Appeals Court

Apple and Epic Games’ antitrust battle over the former’s allegedly monopolistic App Store practices picked back up on Monday in the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit after both sides appealed last year’s ruling in the original case (via The Verge).

Epic Games originally sued Apple in 2020 after the tech giant kicked its flagship game, Fortnite, off the App Store for circumventing its in-app purchase framework and, by extension, its 30% commission on sales.

The protracted trial ended with U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruling in favour of Apple in nine of the ten counts brought forth by Epic Games and declaring that the iPhone maker was not acting as a monopolist. Epic was ordered to pay Apple $6 million USD in royalties, which it did, but the company also filed an appeal against the court’s decision.

Apple too appealed the decision because the ruling would force it to let Epic (and other developers) inform users about alternative payment solutions in apps, and even link out to their own transaction systems.

The Apple v. Epic Games appeals trial has even higher stakes than the original case since it will have a bearing on not only Apple’s future in the app market and the extent of its power over payments and commissions, but also on regulators’ and judicial bodies’ ability to prosecute the company for antitrust claims.

As part of the appeals case, the U.S. Department of Justice and the State of California will present arguments pertaining to the proper legal framework for assessing antitrust allegations against Apple. Neither institution will support any particular in the trial, though.

In a filing, the DoJ expressed concerns that the lower court had too narrowly interpreted parts of U.S. antitrust law and noted that it had misunderstood Apple’s monopoly power over pricing and other things.

What’s more, the appeals court docket is also filled with numerous amicus briefs — filings from entities that aren’t parties to this case offering information, expertise, and insight to the court — arguing against the original ruling.

Among these briefs are filings from Apple critics like Tile, Match, Basecamp, and the Coalition for App Fairness, a lobbyist group, as well as from other store operators like Roblox and Microsoft.  Several consumer advocacy groups like the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a total of 35 U.S. state attorneys-general have also filed in support of Epic Games.

Epic Games is seeking a comprehensive remedy to Apple’s App Store dominance in the form of an alternative method to serve its iOS user base. This could be accomplished with a third-party app store, app sideloading, or third-party payment systems. Earlier this month, the European Union set precedent for all three when it began a six-month implementation phase for its Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Judges Sidney R. Thomas, Milan D. Smith Jr., and Michael J. McShane will preside over the Apple v. Epic Games appeals case.

You can watch the first day of hearings below: