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Apple has been ordered to leave Unreal Engine and Epic subsidiaries alone

(Image credit: Epic Games)
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Apple and Epic Games won't be going to trial (opens in new tab) over the Fortnite dispute until next year, but the Epic v Apple conflict rages on anyway. Epic's been trying to get the court to force Apple to reinstate Fortnite on iOS, claiming its banishment is causing irreparable harm, while also trying to stop it from retaliating (opens in new tab) by blocking the Unreal Engine, a move that would affect a lot of other developers. The request has been successful, in part. 

The status quo, with Fortnite barred from iOS, won't be changing. In August, Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled that Apple didn't need to let Fortnite return (opens in new tab), and none of Epic's arguments since have convinced her otherwise. 

In court documents (opens in new tab) from October 9 (cheers, The Verge), Epic's request was called "extraordinary relief," which isn't "awarded as of right." Epic argued that, while it chose to breach its agreement with Apple, the court shouldn't assist Apple in enforcing a contract that's "anti-competitive and violative of antitrust laws."

Since Epic has yet to prove that Apple has violated antitrust laws, its argument wasn't persuasive, so Fortnite won't be coming back to Apple devices until one of the companies folds. 

"In short," said Rogers, "Epic Games cannot simply exclaim 'monopoly' to rewrite agreements giving itself unilateral benefit. Its other identified bases: damage to its reputation and the Fortnite gaming community cannot constitute irreparable harm where such harm flows from Epic Games' own actions and its strategic decision to breach its agreements with Apple."

It's better news for the Unreal Engine, which Apple sought to remove alongside Fortnite. A temporary restraining order (opens in new tab) was granted in August, and Rogers believes Epic has shown that Apple's plans were "retaliatory" and that taking adverse action against its subsidiaries, collectively referred to as Epic Affiliates, would do irreparable harm.

Apple didn't challenge this, but did argue that it has historically removed affiliated developer accounts and tools in similar circumstances, and that the harm is self-inflicted. Apple also claimed that Epic could put a "secret code" in the Unreal Engine and other Epic apps. Rogers wasn't convinced, granting Epic's motion for a preliminary injunction. 

So the temporary restraining order has been given an upgrade, ordering Apple to not take action against Epic Affiliates by "restricting, suspending or terminating the Epic Affiliates from the Apple's Developer Program," and remaining in effect until there's an outcome to the litigation.  

The trial is set for May 3, 2021, but a pre-trial hearing will take place on October 19.

Fraser is the UK online editor and has actually met The Internet in person. With over a decade of experience, he's been around the block a few times, serving as a freelancer, news editor and prolific reviewer. Strategy games have been a 30-year-long obsession, from tiny RTSs to sprawling political sims, and he never turns down the chance to rave about Total War or Crusader Kings. He's also been known to set up shop in the latest MMO and likes to wind down with an endlessly deep, systemic RPG. These days, when he's not editing, he can usually be found writing features that are 1,000 words too long or talking about his dog.