Epic snub by Supreme Court in battle to escape Apple App Store payment prison

This fight over IAP is getting, dare we say, unreal

Apple gets to maintain its App Store monopoly, at least for now, after the US Supreme Court rejected a bid from Epic Games to lift a court-ordered stay that would force Apple to let devs go outside the App Store for processing in-app purchases (IAPs). 

Epic was seeking to vacate a stay of a lower court decision in its ongoing legal battle with Apple that found the latter had violated California law by forcing app developers to use the App Store's IAP system, and fork over a 30 percent commission to Apple for the privilege. 

Epic, maker of smash-hit video game Fortnite and the Unreal engine, sued Apple in 2020 over the in-app purchase restrictions. While it didn't win the case entirely, Epic did win on its argument that the "anti-steering" rules in Apple's App Store were unlawful, and thus Apple couldn't require app publishers to use its IAP system if they didn't want to. 

Apple appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, which in April generally upheld the ruling from the lower court, particularly the portion that would have forced Apple to allow developers to circumvent its IAP system. 

Unhappy with the appeals court decision, Apple said last month that it intended to appeal to the Supreme Court. As is often the case when an appeal is filed, the 9th Circuit stayed its decision so Apple could work on its request, which led to Epic's emergency request.

Justice Elena Kagan, who handles emergency appeals from the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, denied the emergency application without comment. 

In its arguments to the Supreme Court, Epic argued that Apple was only seeking to delay implementation of the decision, that the 9th Circuit applied improper law when making its decision to stay the IAP order and that the court was too lenient in its application of the law used to make its decision.

Apple, on the other hand, said that the 9th Circuit's application of the law was appropriate because the stay will expire if Apple's eventual appeal to the Supreme Court is denied. Additionally, Apple said Epic isn't able to show it will be "seriously and irreparably injured" by the IAP rule being stayed, as it's already the way things are. Apple also noted in its filing with the Supreme Court that Epic hasn't had any apps in Apple's App Store since it banned the company in 2020 for violating its IAP rules. 

Apple has yet to file its actual appeal to the Supreme Court and it's unclear when that will happen. Appeals to the Supremes typically have to be filed within 90 days of a lower court decision; given the 9th Circuit stayed its order last month at Apple's request, Apple may have until October to file its appeal. Neither Apple nor Epic immediately responded to questions. 

Similar court cases between Epic and Apple, and Epic and Google, in Australia are ongoing, with court dates not planned until next year. Epic is also fighting an ongoing case against Google in the UK. ®

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