Legal experts said that a US judge did not mark Apple as an “illegal monopolist” on Friday, but this closely watched ruling provides a roadmap for similar claims against the iPhone maker in the future.
U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled on the antitrust case brought by Epic Games, the creator of the online game Fortnite, said that Epic did not provide sufficient evidence to prove that Apple Having an illegal monopoly in the relevant market, she defines it as a “digital mobile game transaction.”
But the California judge made it clear that the decision was limited to the facts before her.
“Although the court found that Apple enjoys a considerable market share of more than 55% and extremely high profit margins, these factors alone cannot show antitrust behavior,” Gonzalez Rogers said. “The court did not consider this to be impossible; it’s just that Epic Games failed to prove that Apple is an illegal monopolist.”
The judge did find that Apple’s rules for its lucrative App Store business violated California’s competition laws.
Joshua Paul Davis, a professor of antitrust law at the University of San Francisco Law School, said the question of whether Apple abused its monopoly power “is still very unresolved.”
“Given how controversial these issues are now, I don’t expect this to be the final decision,” he said.
In her ruling, Gonzalez Rogers pointed out that in an experiment earlier this year, Epic Games tried to define the relevant market as all app distribution and in-app payments on the iPhone, thus “excessive”.
Gonzalez Rogers said: “Therefore, the trial record of antitrust behavior in the relevant market is not as bad as it should be.”
Apple’s legal team said it is still reviewing whether to appeal the decision.
“We are very satisfied with this decision,” Apple’s general counsel Katherine L. Adams told reporters. “It emphasizes the advantages of our business, whether as an economic engine or a competitive engine.”
Valarie Williams, a partner at the law firm Alston & Bird, called Gonzalez Rogers’ decision a “roadmap” for the plaintiff to file a monopoly claim against Apple in the future.
Williams said that future plaintiffs may file a lawsuit, adopt Gonzalez Rogers’ market definition and introduce additional evidence.
Sam Weinstein, a professor of antitrust law at Cardozo Law School, agreed that the judge’s ruling could encourage other market participants to learn from Epic’s case and try to launch a stronger crackdown on Apple.
Weinstein said that the language in the ruling may even indicate that the judge believes that Apple’s becoming a monopoly is “only a matter of time.”