In the ongoing and seemingly never-ending battle between Fortnite maker Epic Games and iPhone maker Apple, the latter just scored a major win, gaining a “permanent injunction” on a key September 2021 ruling that would’ve forced Apple to allow external links within App Store-hosted Apps to external transaction systems.
In the ruling handed down Wednesday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Circuit Judges wrote that Apple’s appeal “raises serious questions” on the merits of the original district court’s ruling, and added that Apple “made a sufficient showing of irreparable harm” if the ruling remained.
The portion of the old ruling that’s now stayed pending another appeal would’ve forced Apple to allow developers to include “metadata buttons, external links, or other calls to action that direct customers to purchasing mechanisms, in addition to In-App Purchasing and (ii) communicating with customers through points of contact, obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app.”
This is a significant win for Apple, which was about to lose a piece of its vice-like control over its App Store and the 15%-to-30% commissions it collects on every single in-app purchase.
Epic launched the case against Apple and the in-app transactions rule in August 2020 by bypassing Apple’s in-app purchase system and offering users direct links to Fortnite in-app purchases. It was a gambit that, while intending to force Apple’s hand, also resulted in the removal of Epic’s popular Fortnite game from the iOS platform.
In a statement to TechRadar regarding the new ruling, Apple said, “We’re constantly evolving the App Store to help create an even better experience for our users and the incredibly talented community of iOS developers. Our concern is that these changes would have created new privacy and security risks, and disrupted the user experience customers love about the App Store. We want to thank the court for granting this stay while the appeals process continues.”
While Apple will no longer have to plan for allowing third-party transaction links, the portion that called for Apple to allow developers the ability to contact customers through links obtained via in-app registration may still stand.
Does this mean this epic in-court battle is done? Unlikely, as Epic will surely appeal to another higher court and Apple will, as it’s done since day one, fight tooth and nail to keep the status quo.