Fortnite has been caught in the middle of a battle between its parent company, Epic, and its rival, Apple. Recent interpretations of case precedent seem to suggest that the legal battle might ultimately side with Apple.
Fortnite, Epic vs. Apple
Fortnite fell victim to the business battle between these two companies in the middle of August when Epic introduced an update that would allow players to make purchases through the Fortnite mobile app instead of having to use the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. It seemed like Epic knew that Apple would respond by pulling Fortnite from the App Store, and it filed a lawsuit against Apple almost immediately afterwards.
Since then, however, the two companies have mostly gone quiet. Fortnite attempted to rally its base against Apple, but few players seemed to actually care one way or the other, and some actually sided against the game.
Now, both companies are presumably preparing their legal defenses for an upcoming court appearance, but a quick glance at court precedent suggests that things might not be going well for Fortnite.
American precedent on these kinds of cases
The problem with making an accurate prediction about this case is that the American legal system is notoriously difficult to understand and complex in its operation, which is perhaps why lawyers can demand such high fees.
It appears, however, that legal powers of the United States to deal with monopolies are fairly small when dealing with digital companies. A case in question deals with a company called Qualcomm which was charged with operating a near monopoly on mobile phone parts. Although an initial court agreed with the charges, the decision was appealed in 2017.
Earlier this year, a federal appeals case reversed the charges completely, even stating that “anticompetitive behavior is illegal under federal antitrust law. Hypercompetitive behavior is not.”
This case stated that the FTC needed to prove that the accused business was destroying competition, a high bar to pass even under the best of circumstances.
Can Epic prove that Apple is destroying competition?
This will ultimately be the greatest barrier to the legal case against Apple. Can Epic prove that Apple is destroying its competition? Does Apple have an obligation to operate an open market?
Even if Epic can find a sympathetic judge to agree with their case, Apple would likely appeal to a higher court. It might even rise up to the Supreme Court, although the current configuration of that court, and their own precedent on similar issues, suggests that they would also be inclined to side with Apple.
This means that Epic's best hope for a win here is not in the courts with legal arguments, but in the U.S. Congress in the hopes that new legislation dealing specifically with these matters is passed.