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Apple and Epic Trial Opens With a Tour of the Fortnite ‘Metaverse’

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Epic argues that it is about the broader app economy and that Apple has a monopoly on iPhone users with its App Store. In particular, Epic is fighting against a commission of 30 percent that Apple pays for purchases in iPhone apps like Fortnite.

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May 3, 2021, 3:53 p.m. ET

In a largely empty Oakland courtroom, Katherine Forrest of the Cravath, Swaine & Moore law firm opened Epic’s case with a preview of a series of emails between top Apple executives. The emails are evidence that the tech giant has deliberately created a “walled garden” in which consumers and developers are locked. That forces them to use Apple’s payment system, she said.

After Apple lured users and developers into its walled garden, “the garden gate was closed and the lock turned,” said Ms. Forrest. She compared Apple’s fees for in-app purchases to a dealership that receives a commission on gas sales.

In their opening address, Apple’s lawyers described a thriving market for app distribution, which includes game consoles, desktop computer games and the mobile web. Karen Dunn of Paul, Weiss argued that the 30 percent commission was industry standards and that Epic’s requests, if granted, would compromise the security of iPhones while Apple would be illegally forced to do business with a competitor .

Ms. Dunn added that Epic’s case was a selfish way to avoid paying fees owed to Apple.

The first day of the high-tech competition litigation included terms like hotfix, sideload, and cross-platform middleware services. However, the day started with a familiar experience in the pandemic: zoom difficulties. The start of the experiment was delayed by around 40 minutes due to technical difficulties with the hotlines set up for remote listening.

As a further sign of the change in legal procedures due to the pandemic, everyone who was allowed into the largely empty room wore a mask or face shield. The bench was surrounded by Plexiglas partitions.

“It was an adventure – not even the year, but this case,” said Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers, who will decide the case. She will also make the decision on Epic’s lawsuit against Google over Google Play Store fees, which is expected to go to court later this year.

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Robert Dunfee