A trial date has been set for Epic Games vs. Apple following an extended and public disagreement over the latter company’s alleged monopolization of iOS digital marketplaces. Epic Games initially filed suit immediately after Fortnite was removed from the App Store for violating its payment rules.
The case will be held as a bench trial, meaning there will be no jury, and begins on May 3, 2021. Because of the ongoing pandemic, the court has not yet decided whether the trial will be held in-person or virtually. The decision to use a bench trial was also influenced by the pandemic, as a backlog of jury trial cases would have pushed it into next summer.
Epic Games has argued that by not allowing outside companies to run their own digital stores on iOS devices, Apple has effectively created a monopoly. It takes a sizeable portion of every digital profit on the App Store, including in-app purchases. Fortnite was banned after Epic Games attempted to circumvent this by offering a direct-purchase option for V-Bucks in the game, but it very clearly knew it was going to get the game banned–a lawsuit that was dozens of pages long was filed almost immediately afterward. Videos mocking Apple’s classic ads, similar to the classic film and book 1984, were also played. It wasn’t exactly subtle.
Apple may have a difficult time arguing it doesn’t hold a monopoly, as the House Judiciary committee on antitrust just released a report claiming it, along with Google, Amazon, and Facebook, hold monopoly power within the tech industry. For Apple, it cited its “software distribution” system on iOS, meaning the App Store.
Fortnite has been inaccessible for new downloads on iOS since August, and it can no longer be updated. This means players can’t receive the latest seasonal content. It was similarly banned from Google Play for violating the store’s rules, but there are other digital stores available for Android users. Prior to the game being available through Google Play at all, players could get it through direct download. That is still an option now that is has been banned.