Apple Takes App Store Appeal To US Supreme Court

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Apple petitions US Supreme Court to reverse order forcing it to allow third-party payment systems in App Store software

Apple has said it plans to ask the US Supreme Court to hear its challenge to an order resulting from an antitrust case brought by Epic Games that could force it to allow third-party payment systems in apps distributed through its App Store.

The company announced its plans in a Monday legal filing following a Friday decision by the San Francisco-based Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals to deny a rehearing of the case.

The court on Friday also denied a rehearing request by Epic, meaning Epic may also ask the Supreme Court to hear its challenge.

An order issued in 2021 by US district judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers said Apple must allow third-party developers to provide links to payment options outside the App Store, bypassing Apple’s own payment system and the commissions it pays to Apple.

The US Supreme Court. Image credit: US Supreme Court

Third-party payments

Epic sued Apple in 2020 seeking to force Apple to allow third-party payment systems, as well as to allow third-party app stores on its devices.

In an April 2023 decision the Ninth Circuit court upheld the order forcing Apple to allow alternative payment options, but blocked Epic’s demand for third-party app stores.

It also blocked a lower court’s finding that Epic wasn’t required to pay Apple’s attorney fees.

Apple had argued in its petition for rehearing that the court’s decision would prevent it from deploying “one of the tools it uses to protect security and privacy, and thereby compete with other platforms”.

It added that evidence at the trial showed that “virtually every online platform has adopted anti-steering (or anti-circumvention) rules similar to Apple’s”.

App store competition

Epic had argued in its petition that Apple “blocks the development of more innovative and higher-quality app stores and payment solutions”.

The court denied the rehearing requests without comment.

In its Monday petition to the Supreme Court Apple said the Ninth Circuit had overreached by issuing a nationwide injunction, and argued the case would raise “far-reaching and important” questions about judges’ power to issue wide-ranging injunctions.

The case is Epic Games v. Apple, 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 21-16506.