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Apple’s iPhone is already one of the world’s most litigated devices. Apple fought its No. 1 rival, Samsung, and others over the iPhone’s design. It’s fought phone giant Nokia and chipmaker Qualcomm over patent royalties. Before the smartphone first went on sale in 2007, Apple even fought networking giant Cisco over the iPhone name.
On Monday, Apple meets a new combatant in court. This time, it’s fighting Epic Games, maker of the online gaming phenomenon Fortnite, which has more than 350 million players. Epic sued on Aug. 13, alleging that the iPhone maker’s rules for how big a cut of app sales developers need to pay Apple, and how they can even make money on the popular App Store, are anticompetitive. The suit effectively forces Apple to defend the way it operates its App Store, the only gateway for developers who want to have their apps made available for download on the iPhone.
To prove its point, Epic intentionally broke Apple’s rules that say that for in-app purchases, app developers can only use Apple’s payments processing service. In-app purchases are the add-ons, like digital tokens, that users can buy to get different clothes or designs for their digital characters and weapons. Developers, especially the ones who offer free-for-download apps like Fortnite, rely on those in-app purchases as a key source of income. On that August Thursday, Epic turned on hidden code in its Fortnite battle game, letting users buy items directly from Epic at a discount, rather than pay full price through Apple’s payments service.