Apple faces Fortnite creator in court

SAN FRANCISCO – Apple will face off in a California court on Monday against the company behind the popular video game Fortnite, reviving a high-stakes antitrust battle over the iPhone maker’s policies on its app store.

Oral arguments Monday before three judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco are the latest episode in a legal battle over an app store that offers a wide range of products to more than 1,000 million iPhones and is a pillar of the $2.4 billion Apple empire.

It is a dispute that will probably take time to resolve. After hearing arguments Monday, a court ruling is expected within six months to a year. The issue is so important to both companies that the losing side is likely to take the fight to the US Supreme Court, a process that could take as long as 2024 or 2025.

The fight dates back to August 2020, when Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite, filed an antitrust lawsuit to remove the walls that have given Apple sole control over its app store since its inception 14 years ago.

That tight control has allowed Apple to impose commissions that earn it 15% to 30% of purchases made for digital services sold by other companies. By some estimates, those fees bring Apple $15 billion to $20 billion in annual revenue, which the Cupertino, California-based company says helps cover the cost of technology for the iPhone and a store that now contains nearly 2 million apps, mostly free.

A ruling issued 13 months ago sided with Apple almost entirely. But while Judge Barbara Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple’s sole control over iPhone apps was not a monopoly, the magistrate opened a loophole that Apple wants to close. The judge ordered Apple to allow apps to provide links to payment alternatives outside of the app store, a requirement that has been postponed until the appeals court rules.