On Monday, Apple was granted a motion putting a hold on the appeals court ruling that would push the company to undo its “anti-steering” rules and let outside developers link to third-party payment mechanisms. The mandate is stayed for 90 days so Apple can file its request that the Supreme Court take up the case.
Apple’s anti-steering rules limit how developers can direct users to subscription or in-app purchase payments outside Apple’s App Store ecosystem, where it takes a cut of revenue. A district court found that Apple had not generally violated antitrust law with its “walled garden” approach to iOS, but it ordered it to drop rules against letting developers include “calls to action” for outside payment methods.
Once that petition is filed, it remains stayed until the Supreme Court decides to hear it and, if it does, until the Supreme Court weighs in.
In their request to block the stay, Epic’s lawyers argued Apple’s claims “have no prospect of Supreme Court review” and that “Apple has no choice but to rely on arguments that are so weak that it previously only mentioned them barely, or not at all.” Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney tweeted in response to the stay, “Justice delayed, again.”
Despite granting Apple’s request, Ninth Circuit Judge Milan D. Smith Jr. writes, “…while the arguments in Apple’s motion may not be technically frivolous, they ignore key aspects of the panel’s reasoning and key factual findings by the district court. When our reasoning and the district court’s findings are considered, Apple’s arguments cannot withstand even the slightest scrutiny. Apple’s standing and scope-of-the-injunction arguments simply masquerade its disagreement with the district court’s findings and objection to state-law liability as contentions of legal error.”
The original ruling in Epic Games v. Apple ordering Apple to remove the anti-steering rules came down in September 2021 after days of testimony in court earlier that year. Both Epic and Apple appealed the ruling, and in April of this year, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. Now, Apple wants the Supreme Court to take a look at the case, and if it does, the court’s decision could have a huge effect on the future of the app ecosystem as we know it.
Update July 17th, 5:58PM ET: Added tweet from Tim Sweeney.