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Apple on Friday filed an appeal of U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers' ruling in the recent Epic Games lawsuit, and seeks to stay an injunction that would force changes to the App Store's "anti-steering" provisions.
Lodged with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Apple's appeal and motion to stay could push back enforcement of court-ordered App Store changes for years as the case winds its way through the legal system.
In an attempt to sidestep App Store commissions, Epic last year surreptitiously integrated and activated a direct payment alternative in its popular game "Fortnite." After Apple pulled the game for flouting App Store guidelines, the gaming company sued citing antitrust concerns.
While Apple prevailed on nine out of 10 counts, Judge Rogers took issue with App Store rules that prohibit developers from including in-app options like buttons and links to direct customers to third-party payment methods. An order accompanying the decision calls on Apple to eliminate those restrictions and allow app makers to "[communicate] with customers through points of contact obtained voluntarily from customers through account registration within the app."
The injunction, scheduled to go into effect on Dec. 9, forces a rule change that would allow developers to sidestep Apple's up to 30% cut of App Store proceeds. Companies are already preparing APIs to take advantage of the coming shift.
For its part, Apple continues to argue that directing users to alternate payment mechanisms is an inherently dangerous proposition. Consumers could be led to malicious websites designed to glean personal information and payment details, the company says. Use of external payment systems also hamstrings Apple's efforts to identify and combat fraud, and implementation of the injunction would necessitate a considerable engineering effort involving new security protocols, fee collection structures, App Store guidelines and more.
Apple has made piecemeal concessions as critics scrutinize its App Store practices. In August, the company agreed to settle a class action lawsuit by creating a $100 million fund for small developers and changing App Store policy to include allowances for app makers to contact customers about alternative payment methods. More recently, Apple said it plans to allow "reader" apps to link out to the web for account management purposes, a compromise made to close a Japan Fair Trade Commission investigation into App Store policy.
"Apple is carefully working through many complex issues across a global landscape, seeking to enhance information flow while protecting both the efficient functioning of the App Store and the security and privacy of Apple's customers," Apple says in the filing. "Striking the right balance may solve the Court's concerns making the injunction (and perhaps even Apple's appeal itself) unnecessary."
Judge Rogers will hear Apple's appeal on Nov. 16.