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CUPERTINO (CBS SF /CNN) — A federal judge presiding over a high-stakes antitrust lawsuit between Apple and Epic Games — maker of the popular video game Fortnite — repeatedly slammed Epic on Monday on its legal theories and tactics in the company’s case against the iOS App Store, a court battle that could reshape the digital economy.
Epic is seeking a temporary court order that would force Apple to unblock Fortnite from its iOS App Store. Apple removed the game in August after Epic pushed a software update to the app that allowed players to circumvent Apple’s proprietary in-app payment system — a move that is contractually prohibited.
The case is considered a potentially landmark suit, one that tests the frontiers of antitrust law, said Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. She did not give a timeframe for a decision on the injunction. She also said that given her schedule, the case is not likely to go to trial until July 2021. And, she added, she would prefer the case be tried before a jury.
Monday’s arguments will not determine the final outcome of the lawsuit — only whether Gonzalez Rogers grants Epic’s request for a preliminary injunction. But the court clash, which was livestreamed on Zoom, offered a preview of what a jury could hear next summer, as well as a peek into the judge’s early views in the case.
Epic Games declined to comment. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers looked skeptically at many of Epic’s claims, explicitly telling the company several times in the hearing she was not persuaded by its arguments or its strategy.
Epic knew that it was breaching its contract with Apple when it published the update, but did it anyway, she said, accusing the company of dishonesty.
Apple has justified its app store policies partly as a way to protect consumers from security risks and malicious software. Epic has countered that it is a credible business that has been on the iOS App Store for years and poses no security threat. But Gonzalez Rogers said that is not the issue.
“You did something, you lied about it by omission, by not being…