Apple won’t have to make any immediate App Store changes in Epic case after all

Until the appeals are all over, Apple will continue to operate the App Store as-is.

The seemingly never-ending saga of Apple vs. Epic Games took another turn on Wednesday, as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals granted Apple a stay on a previous judge's ruling requiring it to make changes to its app developer rules for the App Store.

The changes would have had to go in place on December 9.

Apple was originally denied a stay in the anti-steering ruling that would have required Apple to implement some method of allowing developers to link to an outside payment source from within an iPhone app. 

Apple argued that the fast turnaround didn't allow proper time to protect consumers and safeguard its platform while the company works through the complex and rapidly evolving legal, technological, economic issues. An appeals court saw Apple's point and granted the stay.

The basic rundown of events goes like this:

  • Epic Games sued Apple over its rules for developers, claiming that the company violates many antitrust laws in many ways and requesting the court remedy the situation by forcing Apple to treat the iPhone as it does the Mac -- with its own app store, but other venues for app distribution and payments as well.
  • The court ultimately decided that Apple wasn't a monopoly under the law, but did violate California law about anticompetitive behavior. The judge rules that Apple would have to allow developers to have links in their apps that takes people out of the app store to manage accounts, which could include making payments outside the App Store. Apple had 90 days to implement the rules changes, which would have come into effect on December 9. Both Apple and Epic have appealed the decision.
  • Apple then asked for a stay on the judge's order, until the appeals are decided. Judge Rogers denied the stay, stating that Apple asked not for a specific limited amount of time, but for a blanket stay until the appeals are decided, which could take years. Appeal appealed that decision to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This brings us to the current decision. The Ninth Circuit wrote, Apple has demonstrated, at minimum, that its appeal raises serious questions on the merits of the district court's determination, and has granted Apple the stay.

So now, Apple gets to keep operating its App Store as it wants to, and it will likely be a long time before it is required to make any changes as a result of the Epic vs. Apple case. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney, who has repeatedly lashed out at Apple on Twitter and other public forums, says the appeal could be as long as a 5-year process.

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Jason Cross

Jason Cross
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