Apple is Tries to Block Witnesses in Epic Games Antitrust Trial
US consumers spend tens of billions every year on video games. A sizable portion of that comes from mobile games. It’s a huge industry, and every so often, companies disagree over who gets which slice of the pie.
Apple’s lawyers recently moved to block three witnesses in the ongoing legal battle between the tech giant and game developer Epic Games. This is just the latest development in the dispute over profits from the mobile version of Epic Games’ hit battle royale Fortnite.
Apple’s lawyers put forth the motion on Friday, arguing that Epic withheld information critical to Apple’s case. Epic had refused to name the witnesses until shortly before the trial date. Apple claims that this makes the witnesses difficult to cross-examine by depriving Apple’s lawyers of time to prepare their questions correctly. The corporation also accused Epic’s witnesses of failing to produce documents that proved the existence of an “anti-Apple campaign” organized by Facebook. Apple additionally argued that the witness’ work for companies “publicly aligned” against Apple.
Apple described its position as a “procedural Catch-22” in the motion filed on Friday. The tech manufacturer has placed the blame for its situation squarely at Epic’s feet. According to Apple, “Prior to the close of fact discovery, Epic did not indicate that it intended to call these individuals at trial — indeed, it did not even depose them — so Apple did not push the third parties to produce documents from their individual files.” The motion accused Epic of engineering the situation and argued it should be held accountable for the witness’ refusal to cooperate. However, the Fortnite developer argues that its actions were appropriate and that Apple was attempting to suppress important testimony.
District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers struck the motion down on Tuesday. The court ruled that Epic Games did not violate the rules of procedure. According to the judge, Epic informed Apple of the witness’ identity promptly once it confirmed they would be testifying. However, Judge Gonzalez warned Epic that the court would bear in mind its witnesses’ withholding of documents during the trial.
The antitrust trial against Apple commences on May 3rd. Epic filed suit against Apple and Google in August of 2020, though the dispute traces back to early 2017. That was when Epic’s CEO Tim Sweeney began objecting to the 30% of sales taken by digital distributors like Steam, the App Store, and Google Play. This led to the creation of the Epic Games Store in 2018.
Epic filed suit after Apple and Google pulled Fortnite from their store pages. They did so after Epic attempted to circumvent their payment systems. Google stands accused of deliberately undermining Android apps not downloaded through Google Play. Apple, meanwhile, requires users to download apps through Apple’s proprietary marketplace.