The first court hearing for the dispute between Epic Games and Apple took place on Monday in the form of a public Zoom call (via The Verge).
The purpose of this first hearing was to decide if Epic’s Apple developer status should be legally upheld during the course of the legal action, thereby minimising disruption to parts of Epic’s business.
Apple had said that it would take away Epic’s iOS and macOS developer status if Epic did not remove the direct payment option from the Fortnite app. It’s that payment option that drove Apple to remove Fortnite from the App Store as it violates Apple’s rules.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers did not make a definitive ruling but suggested that her impending decision would keep Fortnite banned from the App Store but would seek to protect Epic’s Unreal Engine.
She said: “I am not inclined to grant relief with respect to the games, but I am inclined to grant relief with respect to the Unreal Engine.”
While she acknowledged Epic’s aggression in provoking the action from Apple, evidenced with the viral video it had lined up spoofing Apple’s famous 1984 ad, Judge Rogers commented that Apple’s move to block the Unreal Engine’s use “does to me look retaliatory, and I don’t see any harm to Apple to restrain you from not impacting the Unreal Engine on that platform.”
It may be that the action Apple is allowed to take is restricted to just the removal of Fortnite, the offending app.
Neatly summarising the tricky position she is in to rule over which side should be considered right, Judge Rogers added, “This is not something that is a slamdunk for Apple or for Epic Games.”
Microsoft weighed in in the past few days saying that its games such as Forza Street would suffer if the company were unable to access Epic’s Unreal Engine tech. Many games run on the engine, which Epic makes available through an SDK.