A request by Epic Games for an injunction against Apple has once again been met with partial failure. In a ruling on Friday, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers denied Epic’s request to have Fortnite returned to the App Store. At the same time, Judge Rogers made the temporary restraining order preventing Apple from killing developer accounts related to Unreal Engine permanent for the duration of the proceedings.
Judge Rogers breaks down the arguments behind the request for an injunction, and seems to generally find Epic’s arguments unpersuasive. As she sees it, Epic’s request is to force a return to the status quo ante while still enjoying the current status quo. Given that (by the definition she gives at the start of the decision) injunctions are intended to preserve the existing status quo until the end of the proceedings, Judge Rogers declined to grant the injunction.
At the same time, she also made it clear that this particular dispute was about Fortnite and Epic’s actions regarding that particular title. Apple’s efforts to kill the developer account for Unreal Engine were recognized as going too far when she granted the temporary restraining order, and that order has been not only made permanent, but clarified. Apple will not be allowed to enact any punitive actions against Epic through entities who have no direct involvement in Fortnite. This includes the developer accounts for Epic International (which maintains the Unreal Engine iOS developer account), Psyonix (creators of Rocket League), and other entities which Judge Rogers collectively refers to as “Epic Affiliates.” As long as those “affiliates” do not breach contracts the same way Epic Games did with Fortnite, they’re safe.
Food For Thought
The decision makes it clear that Judge Rogers realizes this particular case is, as she puts it, “at the frontier edges of antitrust law in the United States.” While she currently expresses doubt about the likelihood of Epic prevailing on the merits, she is not doing anything which might inadvertently hamper its efforts to prevail. However frustrating it may seem, Judge Rogers is aware that this case will likely set precedent, and she apparently wishes to make sure it’s a precedent which serves the interests of the public while remaining within the boundaries of existing antitrust law.