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The legal battle between Apple and Epic is heating up

The latest moves in the legal battle between Apple and Epic Games occurred today, further setting the stage for the breach-of-contract dispute scheduled for May 2021. According to a report from Bloomberg, presiding Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers threw out two of Apple's countersuit claims against Epic Games and stated that she would not award any monetary damage not outlined in the breach-of-contract suit. Apple had previously filed a suit against Epic that accused the company of theft.

The rejection of Apple's countersuit will allow the jury to focus the impending legal confrontation on the breach-of-contract aspects of the trial. Bloomberg reports that Judge Rogers, a United States District Court Judge for Northern California, said, "This is a high-stakes breach of contract case and an antitrust case and that's all in my view." Speaking to Apple lawyer Anna Casey, Judge Rogers added, "You can't just say it's independently wrongful. You actually have to have facts."

Judge Rogers' decision was the latest development in a dispute between Apple and Epic that began on Aug. 13, 2020, when Fortnite introduced a new direct-payment system. The new payment process circumvented the 30% fee that Apple collected on App Store transactions, such as the purchase of V-Bucks, Fortnite's in-game currency. Within just hours of unveiling the service, Apple kicked Fortnite off the App Store for violating the digital storefront's guidelines.

It seemed Epic had predicted, and maybe even provoked, the response from Apple. Whatever the case, Epic filed a lawsuit against the company later that same day. In that legal complaint, Epic accused Apple of running an unlawful monopoly in two multi-billion-dollar markets, those being iOS App distribution and iOS in-app payment processing.

After filing the lawsuit accusing Apple of monopolizing the market, Epic revealed that Apple had not only removed Fortnite from the App Store, but had also threatened to terminate the developer account that supports the Unreal Engine platform. Epic successfully argued that Apple's threat was retaliatory and would put consumers at risk, as the company would have no way to patch security threats.

As a result, Justice Rogers stopped Apple from eliminating Epic's Unreal Engine developer account, but she did not go as far as to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite on the App Store.

While Epic's legal victories may seem to give the company an advantage, in reality, the removal of Fortnite from the App Store has had an impact on the Fortnite user base. According to Epic, iOS is Fortnite's biggest platform, with over 116 million users, almost a third of its total registered players. Since the removal of Fortnite from the app store, daily users have dropped over 60%. As such, Epic filed another motion on Sep. 5 to try and force Apple to reinstate Fortnite in the App Store before the May 2021 trial.