Apple Can’t Block Unreal Engine, Judge Says, But Fortnite Is Still Banned

The battle between Epic Games and Apple rages on as the two companies continue to take shots at each other through court filings. The legal battle won’t end this year, but there was a resolution to at least one part of it—a judge has confirmed that Apple can’t block Unreal Engine, but that it can maintain a ban on Fortnite.

As a summary, Apple has a 30% “tax” on all in-app purchases that happen through the Apple store—a tax that must be paid. Epic Games knew that, but decided to circumvent Apple’s “tax” anyway by giving players discounted items if they purchased directly through Fortnite. Apple, of course, claimed that this was a breach of contract, which it was. Epic Games, in return, is suing Apple—claiming that Apple is maintaining an unfair monopoly on app purchases and must allow competition from other apps.

One of Apple’s first reactions was to ban all Epic Games properties from iOS, which included Unreal Engine. Epic Games then filed a restraining order asking the courts to allow Unreal Engine to continue to operate. That order was granted until a full hearing—this one—could be held. Epic, then attempted to force Fortnite’s way back on to iOS by requesting an injunction against Apple’s ban on Fortnite. The judge ultimately ruled that Apple could maintain its ban on Fortnite, but confirmed that it could not ban Unreal Engine, because it would unfairly harm developers who are not part of this fight.

Unreal Engine is a tool that many developers use to create the physics and 3D environments that are present in countless games. Apple’s attempt to block any game that used the engine in its development—because the engine is owned by Epic—was ruled, once and for all, as too over-reaching to be allowed to continue.

U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who was presiding over the case, said that she is unwilling to tilt the field in favor of either side because of the magnitude and novelty of the case—which will set a precedent for future legal battles. “This matter presents questions at the frontier edges of antitrust law in the United States,” Rogers said. “Simply put, no analogous authority exists. The questions and issues raised in this litigation concern novel and innovative business practices in the technology market that have not otherwise been the subject of antitrust litigation.”

Epic and Apple are on the cutting edge of business practices when it comes to digital storefronts. The outcome of this particular case will be a factor in all future business decisions when it comes to App stores. A trial date has been set for July of 2021.

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