Epic wins support from Microsoft and 35 states in antitrust fight with Apple

Deepak Gupta
Deepak Gupta January 29, 2022
Updated 2022/01/29 at 3:52 PM

Epic Games has some key allies in its bid to overturn a court ruling that cleared Apple of violating antitrust laws. CNET and FOSS patents report Microsoft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and attorneys general from 35 states have filed documents supporting Epic’s case in the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The states argued that the district court wrongly claimed that the first section of the Sherman Act (a cornerstone of US antitrust law) did not apply to unilateral contracts like the terms Apple has set for developers. The court also failed to adequately weigh the harms of Apple’s alleged anti-competitive behavior versus the benefits, according to the filing.

Meanwhile, Microsoft noted that it still had reason to be concerned about Apple’s “extraordinary guardian power” despite its size, citing its own interest in maintaining competition and innovation. This included allegedly anti-competitive behavior beyond the rules affecting Epic. Apple’s effective ban on cloud gaming services on the App Store is believed to hurt Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, for example. Microsoft also challenged the district court’s view that Apple’s in-app payment requirement was not an anti-competitive effort to unite the products.

The EFF, in turn, echoed states’ concerns about weighing harmful effects, while offering parallels with Microsoft’s binding interpretation. The foundation also said the district court erred when it assumed customers were fully aware of Apple’s policies when they joined the company’s platform.

Apple remained confident of its chances. In a statement to CNET, the company said it was “optimistic” that the district court’s ruling would be upheld and maintained its view that it was providing a “safe and reliable” App Store offering a “huge opportunity” for creators. Epic declined to comment.

Summaries such as these do not guarantee Epic’s success – the appeals court is not required to consider them. This is a strong show of support, however, and it won’t be surprising if Microsoft, the EFF and the states influence the decision. If Epic wins its appeal and doesn’t face more challenges, Apple may have to overhaul the App Store even further.

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