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Date set for Apple v Epic Games trial

Judge wants it to last a Fortnite.

The battle between Epic Games and Apple over in-game microtransactions is still rumbling on, and after months of arguing it seems a date has finally been set for an in-person trial. Yep, it seems this one is going all the way.

Yesterday a management conference was held in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, in which judge Yvonne Gonzalez organised a bench trial between Epic Games and Apple (as reported by MacRumors). A date has now been officially set for 3rd May, which will require witnesses to travel to Northern California to appear at court in person.

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The reason for the physical trial is that judge Gonzalez feels the case is serious enough that it should be heard in person, and believes witnesses are less likely to lie when being sworn in a courtroom. Those required to travel will apparently be given the resources to quarantine for two weeks after the trial, while other Covid safety measures will also be taken, such as limited numbers of people in the courtroom at any one time.

In the event Covid-19 numbers are still high in the summer, the trial will instead take place over Zoom, hopefully without anyone accidentally turning themselves into a cat. The judge wishes for the trial to last two to three weeks, but Epic Games is pushing for a longer trial of four to five weeks - though the exact length of the trial will be decided later.

The dispute between Epic Games and Apple began in August last year, when Epic added an alternative payment system to Fortnite to get around Apple and Google's in-app purchase mechanisms. Both Apple and Google then booted Fortnite off their stores, with Epic quickly responding by filing lawsuits against both companies. Since then Epic Games has won a temporary restraining order to prevent Apple from taking away its developer licenses for iOS and macOS (something that would have impacted third-party game developers using Unreal Engine). Apple, meanwhile, decided to halve its App Store fees for the vast majority of developers - something that will likely make it harder for Epic to claim it's championing smaller developers with its case. Oh, and Apple also filed a counter-lawsuit against Epic for breach of contract, adding another layer to the legal mess.

In the court trial, Epic is expected to continue its argument that Apple's 30 per cent cut of in-game transactions is "costly" and "anti-competitive", while Apple will likely argue that its prices are reasonable and similar to other digital platforms like Steam.

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