Judge Rules Apple Can Keep Blocking Fortnite, But Not Unreal Engine

Judge Rules Apple Can Keep Blocking Fortnite, But Not Unreal Engine
Photo: Chris Delmas, Getty Images

In the latest chapter of the Epic Games vs. Apple feud, a federal judge granted an injunction Friday to keep Apple from terminating Epic’s developer account but also said the tech giant wouldn’t be compelled to bring Fortnite back to its App Store.

In short, the temporary restraining order that Epic won against Apple in August is now permanent, but Fortnite still won’t be returning to the App Store for the foreseeable future.

It’s a development that maintains the status quo but notably lets Epic Games and the company’s who depend on its widely popular software tool, Unreal Engine, breath a sigh of relief knowing that Apple won’t be able to cut off support on iOS any time soon.

“Epic Games and Apple are at liberty to litigate this action for the future of the digital frontier, but their dispute should not create havoc to bystanders. Thus, the public interest weighs overwhelmingly in favour of Unreal Engine and the Epic Affiliates,” Judge Yvonne Gonzales Rogers said in Friday’s ruling.

In case you haven’t kept up with the bitter tit for tat Apple and Epic exchanged over the summer, here’s a quick recap. In August, Epic made a ridiculously theatrical show of trying to circumvent the “Apple Tax,” the 30% cut that Apple gets of any in-app transactions on iOS, with its popular Fortnite game, which resulted in Apple booting the title from its App Store. Epic promptly filed an antitrust lawsuit against the tech giant, and since then the two have bandied press release after scathing press release. Apple filed a countersuit arguing that Epic’s stunt threatens to undermine its entire iOS ecosystem and also tried to ban the company’s developer account in retaliation. Epic fired back by winning a temporary restraining order to preserve its access to Unreal Engine and announced it wouldn’t push new Fortnite updates to Apple users.

As of now, their bitter legal feud doesn’t have much of an end in sight. Rogers previously recommended the case be brought before a jury as soon as next July, but both companies have reportedly said they’d prefer not to go down that route and have a judge decide the case instead. In Friday’s ruling, the judge acknowledged that Epic’s suit has become a larger touchstone in the struggle between tech giants and third-party developers who rely on their platforms, though she added that “too many unknowns remain” to determine whether Epic will succeed with its antitrust claims.

“This matter presents questions at the frontier edges of antitrust law in the United States,” she wrote. “Simply put, no analogous authority exists.”