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Epic Games' victory in the antitrust dispute against Google Play Store: a turning point for the app economy?

Oh wow: Epic Games, the developer behind the world-famous game Fortnite, has scored a remarkable victory in an unprecedented antitrust lawsuit against Google. This ruling, which classifies the Google Play Store as an illegal monopoly, is not only a milestone in the history of the digital economy, but could also serve as a catalyst for far-reaching changes in the entire app store ecosystem. In an industry dominated by a few tech giants, this decision represents a challenge to the established power structure and raises important questions about the future of digital marketplaces, developers’ rights and consumer choice. In this article, I attempt to shed light on the implications of this ruling and discuss how it could reshape the landscape for app developers and users worldwide.

US law vs. EU antitrust law:

This ruling, made in the context of the US legal system, emphasizes the differences to EU antitrust law. While the decision could have far-reaching consequences in the USA, the impact within the EU may be different, as EU antitrust law has different requirements. In particular, EU antitrust law places a stronger focus on the promotion of competition and the protection of smaller market participants, which can lead to different legal assessments. In addition, market structures and consumer behavior are different in Europe, which influences the applicability and consequences of such rulings. However, if the ruling is upheld in subsequent instances, this case law could still have a significant impact on the app economy in Europe. This could lead to a reassessment of the business practices of app stores and possibly trigger a wave of regulatory and legal adjustments in Europe. It remains to be seen whether and how European regulatory authorities and courts will react to this development and whether similar legal challenges will arise in the EU.

The significance of the judgment:

The jury found in favor of Epic Games on all points. This ruling represents a clear defeat for Google and could fundamentally change the way companies earn money on the Android operating system. It highlights how a single court case can influence the dynamics of an entire industry. The jury concluded that Google has a monopoly position in Android app distribution and in-app payment services and has abused this position to stifle competition and charge unreasonably high fees to app developers.

Epic Games successfully argued that Google had acted anti-competitively by tying its Play Store to the billing service and through special agreements with certain companies that prevented the establishment of competing app stores. This led to the decision that Google’s practices not only hindered competition, but also restricted innovation and ultimately harmed consumers.

In a statement, Epic Games emphasized that the ruling was a ‘victory for all app developers and consumers’ and underscored the need for legislation and regulation to address Apple and Google’s dominance over smartphones. Google, on the other hand, announced that it would appeal, emphasizing that Android and the Google Play Store offer more choice and openness than any other major mobile platform.

The ruling could have far-reaching consequences for the entire app economy by giving other developers more freedom and flexibility in the pricing and distribution of their apps. This could lead to greater diversity and innovation in the app market and redefine the balance of power between app developers and platform operators. In addition, this ruling could also prompt other providers such as Steam to adjust their pricing structures. It is possible that the way money is earned on app stores will change in the next few years, for example by paying for reach instead of billing or other indirect services. This development could herald a new era of monetization in digital markets, in which cost structures and revenue sources are reassessed and adjusted.

Conclusion;

The ruling in the Epic Games v. Google case marks a potential turning point in the app economy, the effects of which could extend far beyond those directly involved. While at first glance the decision appears to be a victory for app developers by promising more control and flexibility in the distribution and monetization of their products, a careful business assessment is needed to understand the actual consequences.

It is important to consider that large market players such as Epic Games may benefit from the opportunity to implement their own payment systems and break away from the fee structures of the app stores. However, this development could pose unexpected challenges for smaller developers who do not have a comparable reach. If platform operators such as Google and Apple have to develop alternative sources of income, they could, for example, introduce fees for reach, traffic or hosting. Such costs could be a greater burden for smaller developers who rely on visibility in app stores than the current fee structures.

Google’s announcement that it will lodge an appeal indicates that the legal dispute is not yet concluded and that the final verdict remains to be seen. This ruling and its long-term effects must therefore be carefully analyzed not only from a legal perspective, but also from a business perspective.

In this context, it is important for lawyers like me to keep a close eye on developments and provide our clients with comprehensive advice. In case of doubt, numerous publishing contracts will also have to be adapted at some point.

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel

Marian Härtel is a lawyer and entrepreneur specializing in copyright law, competition law and IT/IP law, with a focus on games, esports, media and blockchain.

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