Apple says App Store is at risk in legal battle over ‘Fortnite’

Apple says its entire App Store will be placed at risk if Epic Games is allowed to maintain operations within the store amid a contentious legal battle over its rules.

In its first court filings responding to Epic’s antitrust lawsuit, in which the maker of the popular game Fortnite is challenging the 30 per cent commission Apple takes on all app purchases, Apple called Epic’s legal argument bereft of “factual, economic and legal support”. 

Epic sued Apple on August 13 after Fortnite was kicked out of the App Store for circumventing Apple’s payment mechanism. Apple has also threatened to stop supporting Epic’s Unreal Engine, a graphics platform used by millions of third-party developers.

Epic had asked for an injunction that would block Apple from acting on this threat, but Apple said on Friday that such an injunction would “threaten the entire App Store ecosystem”.

It would “set off a flood of additional requests for ‘emergency’ relief and threaten the entire App Store ecosystem as developers see they can breach their agreements, jeopardise the security of the App Store, and circumvent payments to Apple, all without consequence”, Apple argued in the filing. 

The App Store is the core of Apple’s “services” unit, a $50bn a year division that is second only to the iPhone in terms of revenue and which grew at 15 per cent, year-on-year, in the second quarter.

Apple said its terms and conditions “expressly spell out” that violations of its App Store rules would not be tolerated. “Developers who work to deceive Apple, as Epic has done here, are terminated,” it said.

While Epic has claimed it would suffer “irreparable harm” if it cannot access developer tools hosted by Apple, the iPhone maker said the alleged injury Epic was experiencing “could disappear tomorrow if Epic cured its breach”.

In a separate declaration filed with the court on Friday, Phil Schiller, App Store head, said that Epic only initiated its lawsuit after Apple declined a request that would have granted it “special” exemptions — a contention designed to undermine Epic’s claim to be fighting a battle of principle on behalf of all developers.

Mr Schiller said that on June 30, Epic asked if it could offer an Epic Games Store app so users could install apps from Epic directly without going through the App Store or Apple’s payment mechanism. Apple declined, and responded by saying it had “never allowed this”.

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