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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Jason Snell

Apple bests Epic, but change is coming to the App Store

On Friday, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers issued her judgment and counter-judgment on Epic Games’s lawsuit against Apple.

The result largely favors Apple, to the extent that Apple released a statement declaring victory:

Today the Court has affirmed what we’ve known all along: the App Store is not in violation of antitrust law. Apple faces rigorous competition in every segment in which we do business, and we believe customers and developers choose us because our products and services are the best in the world. We remain committed to ensuring the App Store is a safe and trusted marketplace.

Perhaps most notably, Epic has to pay Apple its cut of transactions that bypassed Apple’s in-app purchase system and is still banned from the App Store, and the judge has defined the market in question in the lawsuit as “digital mobile gaming transactions”—rather than what Epic preferred the market definition to be, something more along the lines of “iPhone transactions.” Apple monopolizes iPhone transactions, but the judge decided that the iPhone is not a market unto itself.

But while Apple can claim victory, there’s also the matter of a permanent injunction the judge placed on Apple, effective in 90 days:

Apple Inc. and its officers, agents, servants, employees, and any person in active concert or participation with them (“Apple”), are hereby permanently restrained and enjoined from prohibiting developers from (i) including in their apps and their metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.

The real question is how to interpret the judge’s order. At the very least, it seems to be harmonious with the recent law passed in South Korea that would force Apple to allow developers to use alternate payment methods. The real question is, will the ruling allow apps to directly embed purchase options, or will it be a more of a redirection to the web for an alternate out-of-app payment program?

There will undoubtedly be appeals and conferences and plenty more to keep the lawyers busy. But it does feel even more inevitable that change is coming to the App Store, one way or another.

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