CARY – Epic Games chose to launch its legal battle against tech giant Apple on Monday with its founder and CEO Tim Sweeney, a well-spoken billionaire who has been leading a passionate “Free Fortnite” anti-trust battle for months. He’s back on the stand today in federal court, and his early domination of the trial comes as a bit of a surpirse but a good move, says Raleigh lawyer Jim Verdonik who has represented tech companies for years and knows how the legal game is played out before judges and juries.
“I think Sweeney’s role in leading was to keep the public engaged with Epic’s version of the story,” Verdonik said Tuesday in recapping Monday’s testimony. “That’s why they led with Sweeney.”
Sweeney and Epic have grown much richer due to the global success of Fortnite. But being booted from Apple’s app store in a decision that Epic says has cost it profits led to the suit – filed last year – and a similar action against Google. Apple also is challenging the tech duo in other countries.
“Epic’s version of the story is to appeal to basic fairness. It also puts pressure on [Apple CEO] Tim Cook to perform well when its his turn. The public will naturally compare the two.”
Verdonik at first said he “was surprised that Sweeney testified on the first day of the trial.” Later, however, he said he saw the wisdom of the move by Epic, which has rallied behind Sweeney’s outspoken campaign on Twitter.
“Epic alleges that Apple makes more profit on each sale through its App Store than the app developer makes. That’s an unusually high margin for a retailer,” Verdonik said.
Even though Apple cast Epic out of the app store after Epic created a work-around of Apple’s 30%-fee system, Verdonik says Epic has much public support in the David vs. Goliath tradition. (Epic is worth $28 billion, Apple $2 trillion.)
“There’s an old saying in the law: If the facts are on your side, argue the facts. If the law is on your side, argue the law,” Verdonik said.
“In this case, the law may be on Apple’s side.
“Some facts are on Epic’s side, but others are probably on Apple’s side. In that situation, you spin and appeal to emotion. Make it a personal contest between Sweeney playing the role of David and Cook playing Goliath.”
“If I were Epic, my strategy would be to keep the spin going in its direction as long as possible. It will take years for the appeals in this case to get a final decision. While the appeals go on, Congress may act – but only if Sweeney convinces the public that what Apple led by Goliath is doing is basically unfair.”