During a meeting between the companies' lawyers and a judge in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, the date for the bench trial between Apple and Epic Games was officially appointed for May 3, 2021, with a pretrial conference held on April 21, 2021.
Judge Yvonne Gonzalez of the Northern District of California, who's presiding over the Epic-Apple dispute, said that the case is important enough to require the witnesses to travel to Northern California and appear at court in person even despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. She believes the witnesses will be less likely to lie when sworn in a physical courtroom compared to a digital trial.
The judge believes that the trial will last between two and three weeks, but Epic is pushing for a longer trial of four to five weeks. However, the exact length of the trial will be decided later.
Considering the number of COVID-19 cases in May, the trial may as well take place over Zoom, but this will be determined closer to the actual trial date. Regardless, the case will go forward in May anyway.
All necessary COVID-19 safety measures will be taken during the hearings, such as practicing social distancing between parties, a limited number of people in the courtroom, and enough space given to witnesses to let them speak without protective masks.
Those who need to travel will be given resources to quarantine for two weeks after the trial, and health considerations will be taken into account for those who will not be able to travel for health reasons.
During the trial, Epic Games will try to prove the fact that Apple is using anti-competitive practices regarding developers of apps and games for iOS by using monopolistic methods. In particular, by prohibiting the use of their own payment systems when making in-game purchases. Because of this, developers are forced to pay a 15-30% commission to Apple.
Apple, in turn, expects to prove that App Store commissions are fair and in line with market rates, and its App Store policies provide strong customer protection.
Valve has recently become an involuntary participant in the dispute. The company is supposed to provide data on 436 games that are available on both the Epic Games Store and Steam.
The hearing that will take place on May 3 will only be the first one, so the process may drag on, and the hearing is likely to take several weeks.
The dispute between the two companies began in August 2020, when Apple removed Epic's Fortnite game from the App Store because Epic violated the platform's rules by introducing a direct payment system within Fortnite. As a result, Epic filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple, followed by Apple's counter-suit. The legal proceedings are currently ongoing.