Apple can delay changes to the App Store until Supreme Court ruling

Jul 18, 2023

Earlier this month, Apple filed an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court, to reverse a ruling in its lawsuit against Epic Games. The Cupertino company has been granted a motion that allows it to delay changes to the App Store until the plea is heard by the Supreme Court.

The court case began in 2020, when Epic Games wanted to end Apple's monopoly, after the latter had purged Fortnite from its App Store. Apple claimed that it had banned the popular game after it had discovered that Epic Games had violated its terms and conditions by steering users away from its payment platform, to a third-party one.  Epic found the behavior anticompetitive. It is worth mentioning that Apple charges a 30% commission fee on all transactions that are made via the App Store's payment gateway. This was the reason why Epic Games took the Silicon Valley Mogul to the court.

In 2021, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, ruled that Apple was harming the competition by collecting fees on developer sales. Both parties involved appealed against the ruling to the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. However, Epic lost the case when the Court of Appeals ruled in Apple's favor in April 2023. But it wasn't a complete victory for Apple, either. It only won 9 out of the 10 claims it had appealed against.

The Court found Apple's App Store anti-steering rules guilty of violating California's Unfair Competition Laws, and directed the company to make changes to the store's policies. Apple on the other hand found the nationwide injunction unfair, and decided to file an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. Meanwhile, it also filed a motion in the Court of Appeals to stay the ruling.

Apple allowed to delay changes to the App Store until Supreme Court ruling

The Verge reports that the Ninth Circuit Court granted it to Apple, so the company has 90 days during which it can file its request to the U.S. Supreme Court. This means that the electronics giant would be allowed to delay the changes that it would have to make to the App Store, i.e. allow third-party payment methods. And it could be extended when the Supreme Court decides to hear the appeal, and until it weighs its decision.

Epic Games founder and CEO, Tim Sweeney, was decidedly unhappy about the news. He Tweeted a response that said “Justice delayed, again.”, while pointing that Apple’s anti-steering rules were found to be illegal by both courts. Epic can also appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Apple may have been granted a lifeline, it may only be a temporary delay.

Judge thinks Apple cannot win

Ninth Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. wrote “...while the arguments in Apple’s motion may not be technically frivolous, they ignore key aspects of the panel’s reasoning and key factual findings by the district court." The Judge pointed out that the California-based company's arguments ignore the key aspects of the panel's reasoning and factual findings by the court. He believes that Apple's arguments will not withstand even the slightest scrutiny. The Judge believes that Apple's arguments are simply the company's disagreement with the court's findings. It appears that the company may not have any actual legal grounds to win the appeal.

It remains to be seen what the U.S. Supreme Court will have to say about the appeal. Its decision could change the app ecosystem. Meanwhile, Apple will also have to deal with the European Union's antitrust rules, and comply with them to allow sideloading of apps from third-party sources. Both of these could deliver a massive blow to its revenue. The infamous "walled garden" may finally be torn down when iOS 17 is released in Fall this year.

Apple allowed to delay changes to the App Store until Supreme Court ruling
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Apple allowed to delay changes to the App Store until Supreme Court ruling
Apple has been allowed to delay making changes to the App Store payment methods until the U.S Supreme Court decides to hear its plea.
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