Apple Could Face More Lawsuits After Key Court Ruling

( pple could be in for a world of hurt following a ruling in federal court last week over allegations of conduct that is anticompetitive.

While Apple triumphed in its lawsuit against Epic Games, which claimed the maker of the game Fortnite didn’t prove that Apple was a monopolist with its policies for the App Store, the judge also signaled a warning sign.

In the ruling, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers didn’t absolve Apple completely from engaging in conduct that was anticompetitive. Many legal experts now believe that the ruling gave guidance to other people and entities that may file future lawsuits against Apple.

Rogers wrote in the ruling:

“The Court does not find that it is impossible; only that Epic Games failed in its burden to demonstrate Apple is an illegal monopolist.”

A professor at the New York University School of Law, Eleanor Fox, commented on Rogers’ decision:

“She was especially cautious because she wanted her ruling to have less rather than more impact, and sounds like she’s indicating, ‘Well, maybe somebody else will prove it. I don’t want to stand in their way of trying, but Epic didn’t prove it here.'”

The case in question revolved around Apple’s rules for the App Store that state Apple can collect as much as 30% in commission fees from all sales in apps download through the App Store. In addition, the company has a ban on any alternative payment options.

In its lawsuit, Epic was alleging that Apple kicked Fortnite off the App Store once the game maker decided to put a system for direct payments in place so they could circumvent the App Store’s payment.

Epic Games is currently appealing this decision.

Also in the ruling, Rogers issued an injunction against Apple, which said the company can’t prohibit developers from putting in external links that direct customers to give them options to make a purchase outside of the App Store’s in-app payment method.

She said the anti-steering provisions laid out by Apple were anti-competitive according to the competition laws in California, where Apple has its headquarters.

Apple hasn’t yet made a decision on the next steps it will take, a representative from the company said, but they are looking into every option is has.

David Kesselman, an expert on antitrust litigation, said the ruling was a “bit of a pyrrhic victory” for Apple. He said:

“If the injunction is upheld on appeal and app developers can no longer be told by Apple that they can’t inform customers they can go elsewhere, that’s kind of a big deal. [It’s] not all of what Epic wanted, but it is a direct challenge to one of Apple’s fundamental rules for operating its [App Store].

“That’s really interesting because it suggests that there are limitations to antitrust law that she’s filling in the gaps using a broader state law, and we’ll see if that opens the door to more state law, unfair competition claims now because the statute is being read broader than traditional antitrust law.”