Apple won’t be forced to restore Fortnite to its App Store, but a judge’s temporary restraining order against the company on Monday night prevents it from revoking access to Epic’s Unreal Engine developer tools.
The legal battle between the two companies stems from a dispute over how to collect revenue from in-app purchases, which led Apple – and Google – to remove the game from their app stores. Epic sued Apple, accusing it was threatening to revoke developer access to its tools. He also asked the court for a preliminary injunction in his ongoing legal battle with Apple, essentially allowing Fortnite to return to the App Store until the end of the legal process.
“The Court considers that with regard to Epic Games’ petition regarding its games, including Fortnite, Epic Games has not yet demonstrated irreparable harm,” Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said in her decision. “The current difficult situation is emerging on its own initiative.
“In contrast, Epic Games has made a preliminary demonstration of irreparable harm to Apple’s actions related to the Developer Tools (SDK) revocation,” Rogers wrote. “The corresponding agreement, the Apple Xcode and Apple SDKs Agreement, is a fully integrated document that explicitly excludes the Developer Program License Agreement.”
While Epic’s trial with Google is still in its early stages,to decide Epic’s request that the court compel Apple to allow Fortnite to return to its store. Apple has also threatened to remove Epic’s access to its development tools, cutting off its Unreal Engine game development tools, which are used by industry game makers. Epic argued that Apple’s moves threaten outside developers, while leaving iPhone and iPad gamers unable to play with other gamers when new game updates likely arrive in the fall.
Rogers, a federal judge in the Northern District of California, spent much of the hearing challenging lawyers for Epic and Apple on aspects of their two respective arguments. But, she warned, it is unlikely to force Apple to allow Epic’s popular online fighting game Fortnite to return to the App Store without removing the offensive code that breaks the rules of the Apple App Store.
When either of the companies raised concerns about the financial consequences they might suffer as a result of their decision one way or the other, Rogers scoffed.
“We are talking about a business worth billions versus a business worth trillions,” she said.
At the heart of the dispute is whether Epic has the right to include a direct payment service in its Fortnite app, bypassing Apple and Google’s payment systems and charging up to 30% by Apple and Google on every transaction.
The iPhone maker responded by booting Fortnite and its more than 250 million players from its App Store, which prompted Epic to file a lawsuit. Since then, iPhone and iPad users who have Fortnite installed on their phones can still play, but not everyone can download the app.
Apple and Epic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Ian Sherr of CNET contributed to this report.