Apple asks US Supreme Court to strike down Epic Games order

Smartphone with Epic Games logo is seen in front of Apple logo in this illustration taken, May 2, 2021. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

(Reuters) - Apple on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down an order requiring changes to its App Store rules stemming from an antitrust case brought by "Fortnite" owner Epic Games.

The iPhone maker has been in a legal battle with Epic since 2020, when the gaming firm alleged that Apple's requirement that developers distribute software through its App Store, where Apple charges up to 30% commissions on in-app payments on iPhones and other devices, violated U.S. antitrust rules. Epic lost on those claims at trial in 2021, but a U.S. District Court judge ruled that Apple's practice of banning software developers from telling customers about alternative payment methods violated a California unfair competition law.

After the ruling, the trial court judge ordered that Apple must change those rules for all developers in its U.S. App Store. The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld the orders, though they remain on hold until the Supreme Court either makes a decision or declines to hear the case.

Apple on Thursday argued the lower court orders violate the U.S. Constitution because they overstep the powers of a federal judge. Apple argued that the trial judge relied on a case brought by a single developer - rather than a broader class of developers - to justify a nationwide ban, without proving that the nationwide ban was needed to remedy the harm caused to Epic.

"That approach eviscerates the constitutional limitations on federal courts’ authority and, unless corrected by this Court, would render universal injunctions the default remedy in single-plaintiff cases challenging a generally applicable policy," Apple wrote in its filing with the U.S. Supreme Court.

Epic on Wednesday also appealed lower court rulings in the Apple case. The Supreme Court will likely decide either late this year or early next year whether to hear the case.

(This story has been corrected to say Epic alleged that Apple's software distribution rules violated antitrust laws, not that its commissions violated the laws, in paragraph 2)

(Reporting by Stephen Nellis in San Francisco; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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