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Video game giant Epic Games filed a landmark lawsuit against Apple on Thursday, accusing the iPhone maker of using its App Store polices to violate antitrust laws. Epic claims Apple’s 30% commission on all app-related sales is the result of an illegal monopoly, while Apple says its policies are good for consumers and don’t hurt competition.
Epic’s lawsuit came as a bold legal gambit, but also as the pinnacle of a carefully-planned public relations campaign intended to embarrass Apple and tarnish its brand. The same day if filed the lawsuit, Epic published a video satirizing one of Apple’s most famous commercials.
Meanwhile, the legal complaint is full of lines designed to embarrass Apple in the court of public opinion. While plaintiffs’ lawyers often include some over-the-top zingers to make their case, the Epic complaint does this particularly well.
Here are five examples where Epic’s lawyers stick it to Apple.
Apple as the aging monopolist: In the following passage, Epic’s lawyers paint Apple as an uncool sellout that has betrayed its one-time rebel values:
Apple has become what it once railed against: the behemoth seeking to control markets, block competition, and stifle innovation. Apple is bigger, more powerful, more entrenched, and more pernicious than the monopolists of yesteryear.
Apple as the greedy middleman: In making the case against the 30% commission that Apple charges for all app-related purchases, Epic’s complaint characterizes the company as a “middleman” that unfairly taxes both consumers and sellers:
Apple also harms app developers’ relationship with their customers by
inserting itself as a mandatory middleman in every in-app transaction. … Consumers..are forced to pay higher prices and suffer inferior customer service from Apple, the unwelcome middleman.
Apple as the hypocrite: Epic’s lawyers turn Apple’s own words against it, contrasting the company’s professed support of competition with its recent actions:
In describing the App Store for iOS, Apple claims to “believe competition makes everything better and results in the best apps for our customers” Epic agrees. Competition in the iOS App Distribution Market would make everything better, and that includes better distribution services, better privacy and security safeguards, lower pricing, and access to apps that Apple currently and unfairly restricts.
Apple as the bully: In a neat phrase, Epic underscores how app makers have no leverage in asking for better terms when using Apple’s App Store:
Because Apple has a monopoly over the distribution of iOS apps, app developers have no choice but to assent to this anti-competitive tie; it is Apple’s way or the highway
Apple as sinister overlord: In the complaint’s best zinger of all, Epic refers again to an iconic Apple commercial from 1984. The ad, which was directed by Ridley Scott and is one of the most famous TV commercials of all time, depicts the introduction of Apple’s Macintosh computer as an opportunity to free humanity from Orwellian tyranny. Here is Epic’s riff on the ad:
As such, Epic respectfully requests this Court to enjoin Apple from continuing to impose its anti-competitive restrictions on the iOS ecosystem and ensure 2020 is not like “1984”.
These clever lines won’t be the deciding factor in whether a court rules that Apple broke antitrust law, and some legal experts have already suggested the case could be a tough one for Epic to win. But these zingers give an additional boost to Epic in its public relations battle with Apple—which could prove just as important as the legal one.
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