Apple Asks Judge To Stay Injunction Requiring App Store Changes

Apple on Friday appealed a federal judge's decision that app store policies violate a California unfair competition law, and asked the judge to stay an injunction requiring Apple to allow developers to point consumers to outside payment options.

In papers filed Friday with U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in Oakland, Apple says “precipitous implementation” of the injunction “would upset the careful balance between developers and customers provided by the App Store, and would irreparably harm both Apple and consumers.”

Apple argues to Rogers that failure to issue a stay could force the company “to permit developers to engage in conduct that will disrupt” its business model.”

Gonzalez issued the injunction in a lawsuit brought by Epic Games, which alleged Apple violated anti-monopoly laws as well as a California state law regarding unfair competition.

Epic sued Apple in August of 2020, shortly after Apple removed the "Fortnite" game from the iOS app store.

Apple's move came after Epic began offering gamers the ability to make purchases directly from it, in violation of Apple's policies.

Apple requires game developers to use its payment platform for in-app purchases, and charges a 30% commission to developers that take in more than $1 million in revenue.

Epic contended that Apple monopolizes the iOS app distribution market, and unlawfully forces developers to use its payment processing system.

Rogers, who presided over a 16-day trial in the case earlier this year, agreed with Epic that Apple's anti-steering policies -- which prohibited developers from offering in-app links to outside payment platforms -- violated California's unfair competition law.

Those anti-steering policies “hide critical information from consumers and illegally stifle consumer choice,” she wrote in a 185-page decision.

While Rogers sided with Epic on that one point, she also found that Epic failed to prove that Apple ran afoul of laws against monopolies.

“Given the trial record, the court cannot ultimately conclude that Apple is a monopolist under either federal or state antitrust laws,” she wrote.

Epic recently appealed that portion of the ruling to the 9th Circuit.

Apple argues in its new motion that the appeals court should weigh in before the injunction takes effect, noting that implementation “would require substantial technical and engineering changes.”

“There is no reason to expend resources on these issues when the legal framework is undergoing appellate review,” the company writes.

Rogers' injunction specifically prohibits Apple from enforcing a policy that prohibits developers from including in-app “buttons, external links, or other calls to action.”

Apple says in its court papers that Epic is interpreting those prohibitions too broadly.

“While Apple is taking steps to increase the flow of information from developers to consumers, some developers (including Epic) misread the injunction to permit unconstrained in-app messaging or links,” Apple writes.

“An erroneously broad interpretation of the injunction would ... impair Apple’s ability to protect the iOS ecosystem and cause other irremediable harms,” Apple writes.

Apple elaborates that Epic CEO Tim Sweeney “has touted an expansive view of the court’s injunction that not only would require Apple to allow links directing customers to developer’s websites but, apparently, also would permit developers to install competing payment mechanisms.”

In late August, Apple agreed to settle a separate antitrust lawsuit by allowing developers to notify app downloaders by email or telephone about outside payment options. But that deal doesn't require Apple to also allow in-app notifications.

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