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Apple trumpets "resounding victory" in Epic antitrust lawsuit appeal

But may again appeal anti-steering ruling.

The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a 2021 ruling on Epic Games' antitrust lawsuit against Apple, which both parties had appealed.

Epic launched its lawsuit against the iPhone maker in August 2020, following the company's decision to revoke Epic's Fortnite developer account, blocking the battle royale game from being distributed on its devices. Apple made the move after Epic deliberately circumvented contractually mandated App Store payment mechanisms within its Fortnite iOS app, which would have allowed it to avoid Apple's 30 percent platform fees.

The following year, California's Judge Yvonne Gonzalez-Rogers ruled against Epic in nine of its 10 claims, determining the company had failed to prove Apple held a monopoly as defined by antitrust laws. However, Gonzalez-Rogers did side with Epic in one matter, ruling Apple could not block developers linking out to alternative payment methods from within apps - a practice known as "anti-steering" - as that would constitute "anti-competitive conduct" under state law.

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That decision resulted in an appeal by both parties, but the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has now ruled to uphold the earlier lower court decision, the one exception being Epic may now be required to pay Apple's attorney fees.

"Today's decision reaffirms Apple's resounding victory in this case, with nine of 10 claims having been decided in Apple's favour," an Apple spokesperson said in a statement shared with press. "For the second time in two years, a federal court has ruled that Apple abides by antitrust laws at the state and federal levels."

Apple added, "We respectfully disagree with the court's ruling on the one remaining claim under state law and are considering further review."

As to Fortnite's future on iOS, that remains to be seen: Apple previously told Epic it would "not consider any further requests for reinstatement [of its developer account] until the district court's judgment becomes final and nonappealable". However, Apple is widely expected to implement sideloading in this year's iOS 17 in response to the EU's Digital Markets Act, which may provide Epic with an avenue for Fortnite's return.

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