Apple decides its victory against Epic wasn’t enough — it wants a total win

On Friday, May 21, 2021, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., walked back to the courtroom in Oakland, California, U.S., wearing a protective face shield after a break.

David Paul Morris | Getty Images | Bloomberg

Apple intends to take Epic Games to court for a second time.

Apps that direct customers to third-party websites were ordered to be allowed in September, but on Friday, Apple said it would seek a stay on the judge’s decision. If this ruling stands, app businesses will be able to avoid Apple’s rule that they must only accept payments within apps, where Apple takes a 30% cut. Apple is also attempting to overturn the verdict.

This case could drag on for years as Apple and Epic Games wrangle in court over whether or not to alter iOS, the operating system for iPhones. Epic Games is also appealing the nine counts it lost.

On Apple’s stay request, the judge is expected to rule next month.

Following its decision in September, Apple’s tone has changed dramatically. The judge’s decision was portrayed by Apple as a resounding legal victory for its App Store business model, which has been criticised by technology rivals, international regulators, and members of the U.S. Congress.

Following the ruling, Apple lawyer Kate Adams stated, “We are very pleased with the Court’s decision and we consider this a huge victory for Apple.”

Apple’s announcement on Friday night sparked a flurry of commentary. They pointed out that by preventing apps from using alternative payment systems, the move would preserve Apple’s App Store profits. In a move made possible by the ruling Apple is appealing, one company announced last week that it was already working on a cheaper web-based alternative to Apple’s app payments. The App Store generated $64 billion in gross sales in 2020, but Apple does not disclose its profit margins.

Due to a looming legal deadline, Apple felt compelled to file its appeal now rather than wait any longer. If Apple does not file an appeal at this time, it will no longer have the option to do so. However, if Apple so chooses, it can always withdraw the appeal. Additionally, Apple sought to avoid making hasty business decisions before the case was fully resolved. Because of this order, Apple must allow web links from apps by the end of December.

To put it another way: If Apple wins its appeal of a judge’s order next month, then Epic Games and Apple must settle their differences. This could take a long time, but it will give Apple more time to resist further alterations to the App Store’s structure.

However, in the meantime, Apple’s App Store faces numerous other external legal threats. In the Senate, for example, a bipartisan bill would force Apple to accept alternative in-app payments. Then there’s the fact that Apple has already been forced to comply with a Japanese regulatory decision that requires it to allow some apps to link to external websites. As most believe, Apple makes the most money from its App Store through games.

Despite the fact that Apple initially touted the Epic Games ruling as a victory, its subsequent appeal shows that the company is committed to defending its lucrative App Store model no matter what.