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Apple wins a last-minute stay on App Store external payments injunction


Enlarge / A Fortnite loading screen displayed on an iPhone in 2018, when Apple and Epic weren’t at each other’s throats.

Apple has won a last-minute stay on an injunction that would have required it to imminently begin allowing iPhone and iPad app developers to direct users to alternative payment options.

The requirement to allow in-app linking to third-party payment systems was ordered in a September 10 ruling by the judge in the ongoing Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit. This was one of the few wins for Epic, while Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled in favor of Apple on most points.

The judge gave Apple until December 9 to make the necessary changes to allow outside payment systems, so this stay comes at the last possible moment. When Judge Gonzalez Rogers rejected Apple’s initial request to stay the ruling, the company went on to appeal to the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. It is that appeal that has led to this new development.

Apple can now maintain the status quo on this particular point until the appeal is settled, likely many months from now.

Here are the key parts of the filing, as shared by 9to5Mac:

Apple, Inc. (“Apple”) has moved to stay, in part, the district court’s September 10, 2021, permanent injunction pending appeal. Apple’s motion (Dkt. Entry No. 19) is granted.

Apple has demonstrated, at minimum, that its appeal raises serious questions on the merits of the district court’s determination that Epic Games, Inc. failed to show Apple’s conduct violated any antitrust laws but did show that the same conduct violated California’s Unfair Competition Law…

Apple has also made a sufficient showing of irreparable harm… and that the remaining factors weigh in favor of staying part (i) of the injunction and maintaining the status quo pending appeal…

Therefore, we grant Apple’s motion to stay part (i) of paragraph (1) of the permanent injunction. The stay will remain in effect until the mandate issues this appeal. The existing briefing schedule remains in place.

In its appeal, Apple among other things argued that the December 9 date was not realistic because it would “take months to figure out the engineering, economic, business, and other issues” involved in the change.

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This delay does not mean that Apple will not ultimately have to make the change; it simply means that the debate will continue. Epic Games has also appealed other aspects of Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ ruling, so this legal battle may continue for a long time yet.

It also does not affect the court’s prior order that Apple allow communication with users about alternative payment systems outside of apps using user contact info acquired from within the app.