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Apple to Epic: Sue me? No, sue you, pal!

App Store spat heats up with Cupertino counterclaim

Apple has filed a countersuit against Epic Games as the two companies continue their battle over App Store royalties.

The Cupertino giant is seeking a declaratory judgement [PDF] for breach of contract as it claims Epic has broken their agreement to distribute software and in-app purchases though the App Store. The filing is part formal response to the original Epic suit and part Apple making legal allegations of its own.

"Although Epic portrays itself as a modern corporate Robin Hood, in reality it is a multi-billion dollar enterprise that simply wants to pay nothing for the tremendous value it derives from the App Store," Apple claims.

"Epic’s demands for special treatment and cries of 'retaliation' cannot be reconciled with its flagrant breach of contract and its own business practices, as it rakes in billions by taking commissions on game developers’ sales and charging consumers up to $99.99 for bundles of V-Bucks.”

Epic did not respond to a request for comment.

This all goes back to an August update to Epic's flagship mobile game Fortnite. In that hotfix, Epic changed its in-app purchasing system so that it would directly collect payments rather than run them through the App Store and avoid Apple's 30 per cent commission fee. This, it seems, was a deliberate effort to get itself banned and trigger a legal battle over whether the iOS App Store and Apple's in-app purchase policy is considered anticompetitive.

Apple took the bait and, after booting Epic from the App Store, a lawsuit and publicity campaign were launched. Epic seeks to rid itself and other developers once and for all of the commission fees for in-app purchases.

A nearly identical case has been filed by Epic against Google after its Android apps were similarly banned from the Play Store for the same behavior.

Though Apple had previously responded to Epic's lawsuit, the Tuesday counter-complaint marks the first time the Cupertino giant has hit back with legal allegations of its own. As with previous filings, Apple is trying to paint Epic as an ungrateful partner who took advantage of the App Store to make its name and now refuses to honor its agreement.

"Epic’s breach was flagrant and larcenous," Apple's lawyers charge.

"Epic willfully 'directed customers to purchasing mechanisms other than in-app purchase' and created a new storefront in contravention of the Guidelines and over Apple’s explicit objection."

Apple is seeking a declaratory ruling that it has the legal right to cut Epic off from the iOS app store and find Epic in breach of contract and in violation of the California Unfair Competition Law. ®

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