New Hearing In Epic Vs. Apple Legal Clash May Return Fortnite To App Store

The Monday federal court hearing will likely decide key aspects of the battle between the two companies, such as whether or not Apple returns Fortnite to the App Store.

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The high-profile legal conflict between Fortnite developer Epic Games and Apple continues today, with a federal court hearing that may resolve some of the most pressing questions in the case, including Epic's request for a preliminary injunction that would put Fortnite back on the App Store. [Update: The hearing has taken place, and it looks as if the lawsuit may head to a jury trial next year. There was a proposal to allow Fortnite back onto the App Store, with its revenue being held in escrow for the time being, but Epic sounds unwilling to go that route. That could mean it'll still be a long time before Fortnite returns to iOS.]

According to the Wall Street Journal, court observers suggest that this hearing could foretell the likely conclusion of the conflict. The ruling will probably also determine whether or not Apple can block third-party apps such as Epic's Unreal Engine from its platform, a move that would disadvantage many third-party developers who make games in the engine. If the judge rules in Epic's favor, one legal expert says, Apple is likely to settle in the next six months; if it goes the other way, the case could continue for years.

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The key question in the case is whether or not Apple's App Store practices--including their controversial 30% commission on all in-app purchases--violate antitrust statutes, particularly the Sherman Antitrust Act. Epic knowingly bypassed the commission back in August, which led to Apple removing Fortnite from the App Store. Meanwhile, Apple's retaliation has forced Epic to make various public announcements about Apple's platforms, such as notifying users that upgrading to iOS 14 might remove Fortnite from their phones.

Epic and Apple have both engaged in very public mud-slinging about the dispute, with Epic comparing Apple's business practices to the famed Orwell novel 1984, and Apple calling the lawsuit a "marketing campaign designed to reinvigorate interest in Fortnite." Though the conflict might appear to be just another corporate slap-fight, the outcome of the case is likely to cause serious ramifications for the App Stores of the world--who have been accused of monopolistic practices over the years--particularly if it ultimately resolves in Epic's favor.

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