Here’s what you need to know
- In August of 2020, Epic Games updated the “Fortnite” iPhone app to offer gamers the ability to pay Epic directly, bypassing Apple’s payment processing system and its 30 percent commission. Apple responded by removing “Fortnite” from the App Store. Epic sued and launched a public relations campaign to draw attention to what it says is Apple’s abuse of power. The trial, in federal court in Oakland, Calif., is scheduled to last about three weeks.
- This case is the biggest antitrust trial involving a technology giant since the U.S. Department of Justice sued Microsoft in 1998. The case will be decided by U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers in what is known as a “bench trial,” rather than a jury trial. If Apple loses, the court could force the iPhone maker to open up iOS, its mobile operating system, making the phone more like a traditional computer. Even if Apple wins, it could encourage lawmakers to pass new legislation that would strengthen U.S. antitrust law, or spur a new lawsuit from the DOJ.
- Epic’s lead lawyer, Christine Varney, of Cravath, Swayne and Moore, represented Netscape in its lawsuit against Microsoft and served as U.S. Assistant Attorney General of the antitrust division under the Obama administration. The trial is another opportunity for Varney to make her mark on U.S. antitrust history.
- Tim Sweeney, Epic’s founder and CEO and a household name in the videogame industry, is scheduled to testify in the trial. So is Apple CEO Tim Cook, one of the most respected business leaders in the country. Cook, who is approaching his 10-year anniversary as CEO, has added nearly $2 trillion to Apple’s market capitalization during that period.
- Due to coronavirus restrictions, the courtroom is closed to the public. But there is a public conference line that will broadcast audio from the trial. Details are on the court’s web site.