After 16 days of testimony, the Epic Games vs. Apple trial wrapped up its court proceedings on Monday, but we’re still a long time away from getting a decision. The judge indicated that it could take until August for her to reach her decision, and a legal expert agrees that timeline is fairly typical for this kind of case. Here’s everything that happened, how the two sides’ respective cases stack up, and what we can expect next.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers told lawyers in court today that “there is a lot of material” to go through before she can make a decision in this case. It is a bench trial, which means Gonzalez will make the final ruling, as opposed to a jury.
She joked that she planned to have a judgment by August 13, which was the day in 2020 when Epic deployed a the hotfix in Fortnite for iOS that circumvented Apple’s payment system, precipitating this entire event.
“I am not promising to have this by August 13 but I am going to try–as I said to you–I want to try to get you this while the memories of the testimony is fresh, and while your arguments are fresh. But we do have thousands and thousands of pages to review,” Gonzalez said to the lawyers for Apple and Epic as part of the legal proceeding.
She added that her staff informed her recently that there are 4,500 pages of testimony from the case that she’ll need to go through before making a judgement. “There is quite a bit of work still to do,” she said. “You will receive my decision in writing.”
A Puzzle Box Case
Speaking to the media and other people listening in on the proceedings, Gonzalez said people should think of the case like a puzzle box. The lawyers on each side will tell you what they think the evidence shows, but they haven’t proven anything. As the case progressed, the box continued to fill up with puzzle pieces that could help illuminate the result–or, in this analogy–what the subject of the puzzle was. At the end of the trial, there are no more pieces. Having more pieces might have helped illuminate the puzzle, and some pieces that did get put in the box might seem irrelevant, Gonzalez said. But that’s the end. Now that arguments and testimony are, all the information to render a judgement is out in the open and all that’s left is for Gonzalez to make a decision based on the testimony she heard and documents she saw.
It’s up to the jury, or in this case, the judge herself, to determine how those pieces fit together, and that will be her task until she’s ready to make a decision.
“We’re taking all of that evidence, all of that testimony, all of those documents, and putting it together in a way that seems to make sense in the context of the law. So it may take me a while to do that,” she said.
The court case, which began on May 3, included testimony from Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney and Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, along with other executives from each company. The testimony became fiery and intense at times, particularly in the closing arguments today, as each side’s legal team made one final push to convince the judge to see things their way.
Epic Games is alleging that Apple’s restrictions around its App Store constitute a monopoly, and is seeking to force the company to change its policies toward everyone–not just Epic itself. Apple, meanwhile, is trying to protect its App Store profits as a major source of revenue for the company. The ruling could have major implications.
Epic’s Uphill Climb
Attorney Richard Hoeg told GameSpot that Epic faced more of a challenge in arguing its case, but the gamble could pay off. Apple is essentially arguing on behalf of the status quo, while Epic is requesting the court to intervene with a significant legal change.
“Epic came into the case with a tall hill to climb,” Hoeg said. “Epic brought this case now in part, it would appear, because the political and regulatory world has been re-examining the law’s relationship to these ‘Big Tech’ companies of late and now seemed a good time to test a relatively new antitrust theory in court. In terms of overall strategy I can’t really disagree.”
Hoeg said Epic tried to position its argument as one of “fundamental fairness” but suffered on some of the fine details, while Apple didn’t present a “unified theory of the case” but also doesn’t need to shoulder the burden of proof. He also pointed out based on the judge’s questioning, she could reach a split decision by ruling that Apple’s practices are monopolist–but limit her remedy to ruling against Apple’s “anti-steering” rules that prevent developers from advertising outside marketplaces. In that case, he said, both Epic and Apple would likely be displeased with the result and appeals would likely follow.
As for the lengthy timeline for a result, the August estimate seems very possible, according to Hoeg. A case of this size can typically take weeks or months to decide, and of course, the judge surely has other cases on her docket as well.
The Long Wait for a Verdict
Now, we wait until Gonzalez prepares and releases her ruling. As mentioned, we don’t know when that will be, and given the massive amount of documents she has to go through, it likely won’t be anytime soon. Until a verdict is reached, Epic’s Tim Sweeney says he won’t be commenting further about it.
The Epic vs Apple trial has now concluded! I won’t be commenting before the verdict is delivered. Thanks to everyone whose efforts made this possible, and to Popeyes for building a fine restaurant next door to the Oakland federal courthouse. pic.twitter.com/xma2xyRBtW
— Tim Sweeney (@TimSweeneyEpic) May 24, 2021
We’ll keep reporting on the latest developments from this case as they come to light, so keep checking back with GameSpot for more.
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