Apple’s Counterclaim Against Fortnite Creator, Epic Games

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Apple’s Counterclaim Against Fortnite Creator, Epic Games
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In August 2020, Epic Games, the creator of popular video game Fortnite, launched a program allowing players to make purchases within the app at discount prices. This program circumvented Apple’s App Store payment system designed to take 30% commission from in-app purchases, and instead directed all profits solely to the game creator. In response to this alleged breach of contract, Apple removed the popular game from its App Store, preventing users from making further purchases/downloads of the app or installing updates. Shortly after, Google Play did the same for similar policy-related reasons.

In response to Fortnite’s removal from the app stores of Apple and Google Play, Epic Games filed a lawsuit in August against both tech giants, claiming that they monopolize the payment platform for apps, and that this conduct is anticompetitive, making it a breach of federal trade law.

Apple filed a counterclaim against Epic Games seeking damages for lost App Store fees, in addition to other requests.

Apple responded to the lawsuit from Epic Games by filing one of their own, seeking damages for financial losses they attribute to the game creator’s choice to circumvent the established in-app purchase/payment system. Additionally, Apple is seeking compensation for reputational damage they attribute to unhappy Fortnite players and a campaign launched against Apple by Epic Game; in this parody of a popular television commercial of Apple’s, they made an apple-headed character the villain.

Finally, Apple is seeking a court order to force Epic Games to cease using its current in-app payment system in which payments are made directly to the creator. Previously, Apple had stated that if Epic Games would agree to the former payment system in line with Apple’s payment policies, Fortnite could be reinstituted in the App Store.

According to their introductory statement, Apple believes Epic Games wants to “reap the benefits of the App Store without paying anything for them”.

The introductory statement to Apple’s counterclaims against Epic Games paints the game creator as a “multi-billion dollar enterprise” portraying itself as a “modern corporate Robin Hood”. The counterclaim suggests that a company as successful as Epic Games chose to violate the App Store payment policies out of little more than a desire to line the company’s pockets at Apple’s expense. Epic Games claims that Apple removed Fortnite from the App Store out of retaliation. However, Apple’s legal team points out that removal from the App Store is included in the App Store-Developer contract as a consequence for violating the App Store’s policies and that Apple was fully within their legal rights to do so.

Apple has not named a specific number they hope to recover from this counterclaim, only the category of damages they are seeking. With players as big as Apple and Epic Games involved, this legal battle is likely to be hard-won, leaving gamers and app developers alike in curious anticipation of the outcome.

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