Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Epic Games' App Store antitrust case against Apple reassigned to Oakland judge presiding over Pepper v. Apple and Cameron v. Apple class actions

[Update] The schedule concerning Epic's motion for a temporary restraining order set by Judge Gonzalez Rogers is similar to the one previously ordered by Judge Chen, with Apple to respond on Friday (by noon Pacific Time) and the hearing to be held on Monday (at 3 PM Pacific Time). [/Update]

Approximately 18 hours ago, a clerk's notice already mentioned the possibility of Epic Games' antitrust action against Apple over its App Store terms and policies being reassigned to Oakland-based United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers. The following related case order just came down, and this means Epic Games v. Apple travels over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (this post continues below the document):

20-08-19 order relating cases by Florian Mueller on Scribd

Judge Gonzalez Rogers is already presiding over two class actions against Apple that involve allegations similar to those brought by Epic:

  • Pepper v. Apple is a consumer class action that started in 2011 and went all the way up to the Supreme Court, a 5-4 majority of which allowed it to go forward despite earlier SCOTUS case law (Illinois Brick) denying consumers the right to claim indirect antitrust damages.

  • Cameron v. Apple is a class action in which three app developers (Donald R. Cameron of California, Pure Sweat Basketball, Inc. of Illinois, and Barry Sermons of Georgia) allege Apple abused a monopoly. That case is structurally more similar to Epic's lawsuit as it's an app developer--not consumer--case. It was brought last year. The Gibson Dunn firm represents Apple in that case, as it does against Epic.

Note that Judge Gonzalez Rogers wrote any motions would have to be renoticed, which applies to Epic's motion for a temporary restraining order (TRO) as well.

What remains to be seen is whether Epic's case against Google will end up in Oakland, too. Epic's two app distribution antitrust cases involve many common questions of law and fact. Maybe Epic v. Google will be consolidated with Epic v. Apple.

For those looking to understand the parties' positions in Cameron v. Apple, the most recent pleading that provides such an overview is Apple's answer to the class action plaintiffs' amended complaint (this post continues below the document):

19-11-11_doc74 cv3074 Apple... by Florian Mueller on Scribd

Epic was undoubtedly aware of the existence of the Pepper and Cameron cases when it brought its complaint, though it didn't mention the other cases. Anyway, what Judge Gonzalez Rogers is presiding over is already (with or without Epic v. Google possibly being thrown into the mix) a huge set of cases. The bad news for Epic is that things may take more time than if Epic's case stood alone--even though the schedle for the TRO motion didn't change, but I still don't expect that one to succeed.

While we're on the subject of related cases, there are two developments in other jurisdictions:

Complaints and investigations, however, don't prove that anything about Apple's practices was or is illegal. Otherwise Epic (40% of whose shares belong to China's Tencent) could just have let those other cases, especially the Cameron class action, unfold.

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