The mudslinging between Epic Games and Apple continues, with the game developer arguing that the latest legal filing by the tech giant contains "a number of half-truths and outright falsities intended to paint Epic as a bad actor."
In a 184-page reply filed on Friday evening to Apple's 37-page opposition brief, Epic said the only goal of its preliminary injunction is to "offer consumers an alternative payment processing service that allows consumer choice and lower prices while this litigation proceeds without retaliation" and claims that Apple's latest filing seeks to avoid the real issues at the core of the App Store dispute.
"Apple’s papers try to make this dispute about Apple’s innovative products, rather than Apple’s practices," Epic wrote in its reply. "Many monopolists start with extraordinary products, yet courts have to step in if they use their power to stifle competition."
It also argues that Apple has falsely asserted Epic "created the current situation" when it was simply exercising its Supreme Court-backed power to reject “anti-competitive contractual conditions.”
The legal battle started on Aug. 3 after Epic installed a direct payment system into its popular video game Fortnite which allowed the company to skirt a 30% App Store commission fee paid to Apple.
One of the biggest claims Apple argued in its filing last week is that Epic's lawsuit was nothing more than a "marketing campaign designed to reinvigorate interest in Fortnite."
"For reasons having nothing to do with Epic’s claims against Apple, Fortnite’s popularity is on the wane," Apple wrote. "By July 2020, interest in Fortnite had decreased by nearly 70% as compared to October 2019."
Epic argues, however, that Apple's claim "cherry-picked Google Trends data concerning Google search volumes, misleadingly starting from a one-week spike that took place in October 2019" when Epic ran Fortnite's "The End" event in which the world was swallowed by a black hole.
"Over the period of time that Apple cherry-picked for its Google search volume comparison (between October 2019 and July 2020), the number of daily users actually increased by more than 39%," Epic said.
The tech giant also claimed that only 10% of Fortnite players regularly play on an iPhone and that the popular video game still remains widely available on Microsoft Windows, macOS, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Android. However, Epic argued that Apple's claim is not only "inconsistent with basic antitrust principles" but factually incorrect, citing their own data that 63% of Fortnite players only access the game via iOS.
Another major claim from Apple is that reinstating Epic on the App Store without the removal of the direct payment system could harm the integrity of the iPhone ecosystem and the privacy and security of around a billion iPhone users around the world.
Apple suggests the gamemaker could potentially use its Unreal Engine to "carry through on its threats to undermine the App Store" by "inserting malware, or other unauthorized features such as alternative direct payment mechanisms" to maliciously impact non-Epic apps available on the platform that rely on the game development tool.
The gamemaker argued, however, that the company neither the Unreal Engine nor any other Epic product has or ever will use the development tool as a "vehicle to insert malware or malicious code into any platform."
"Apple’s retaliation against Unreal Engine is further evidence of the absolute power Apple wields on iOS and the lengths to which Apple will go to maintain its monopolies. Apple’s express purpose of attacking Epic’s ability to develop Unreal Engine was to force Epic into submission and ensure compliance with Apple’s anti-competitive scheme," Epic added. "An injunction protecting Epic’s products including Unreal Engine would curtail the scope of Apple’s anti-competitive conduct."
Epic also points out that the security protection built into the iPhone's hardware and operating system allows users to prevent any attempt by an application to enter their device without permission.
"Were it possible for applications to capture sensitive data or wreak havoc on telephony systems, such behavior would be trivial to hide from review," the reply states.
Besides its opposition brief, Apple has filed a countersuit alleging the game developer committed a "flagrant breach of contract." The lawsuit is seeking monetary damages for Epic's direct payment system and reputational damages for its #FreeFortnite campaign that includes a parody of its "1984" television commercial.
A court hearing on the matter is set for Sept. 28 before Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, who previously ruled to protect the Unreal Engine against retaliation from Apple, but rejected Epic's request to be reinstated on the App Store.