Apple Epic Trial

Apple and Epic share their game plans ahead of a blockbuster trial

Both sides will argue not just the letter of antitrust law but the spirit of competition and fairness, and both sides seem to believe they're going to win.

Apple and Epic share their game plans ahead of a blockbuster trial

Apple and Epic are getting closer to trial, and starting to share their game plans.

Image: Epic

Ahead of their trial, Apple and Epic have both filed Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law documents. The enormous tomes serve as the evidence-based backbone for both sides' cases.


A big part of Apple's case will focus on "Project Liberty," the internal name for Epic's plot to pick antitrust fights with Google and Apple. Epic has acknowledged the plan, and said that it was the result of long-simmering issues with Apple. Apple will argue that's not the case. "Epic is asking this Court to force alternative terms on Apple so that Epic can make more money," its filing says.

The stakes here have been clear for some time. Epic believes Apple is a rent-seeking monopolist that is stifling innovation and ought to be required to let developers sell mobile apps and collect payments outside its own systems. Apple says it created the iPhone, and Epic simply wants to reap all the benefits of its enormous success without paying for it. Epic says giving Apple 30% of its business is preposterous; Apple says that's a competitive figure and a fair price to pay for everything Apple offers.

For a case about iOS, the Mac figures to play a surprisingly important role. Proponents of Epic's suit say that the Mac provides the right path forward: It has an App Store that provides all the upsides Apple claims, but developers can sell their apps outside the store commission-free and users can choose where they download them. Apple's response is simply that the devices are different. Phil Schiller and Craig Federighi will take the stand and say that Apple thought about the app model and decided that because phones were more mobile, because user safety was so paramount, that the additional level of security was warranted. Epic will say this was a business decision and nothing more.

The app review process also appears to be a central figure in the trial. One of Apple's main goals will be to prove that its app-review systems are so valuable to the ecosystem as to be inextricable from it, and that its ability to keep malware and similar problems out of the App Store is a win for consumers everywhere. Epic argues the opposite, that app review is "cursory and has historically lagged behind the state of the art in terms of use of the automated tools needed for robust security checks." Beyond that, Epic argues that Apple uses the review process to squash apps it doesn't like or that compete with its services.

The App Store isn't the only thing under consideration here, either. Epic also wants to accept payments outside of Apple's in-app purchase program, and will argue aggressively that there are no security risks or user benefits to restricting the ways users can pay for things. Apple's counter is again that the ecosystem is everything, that it can provide more security and benefit to users than a credit card form.

The trial is set to begin on May 3, and will last until May 24. Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers has given each side 45 hours to argue its case, and both companies plan to call their highest executives to the stand. Both sides will argue not just the letter of antitrust law but the spirit of competition and fairness, and both sides seem to believe they're going to win.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers's name. This story was updated on April 8, 2021.

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