As Apple and Epic Games’ court battle continues, the iPhone-maker has accused Microsoft of driving the case, calling the company a “stalking horse.”
According to Bloomberg, Apple made the accusation in a Wednesday night filing requesting the judge to make an adverse credibility finding against Lori Wright, an Xbox executive that testified for Epic. That finding would allow the judge to ignore Wright’s testimony. Apple also complained that Microsoft withheld internal communications and that the company discussed its decision to bypass Apple’s payment rules with Epic.
A ‘stalking horse’ refers to a person or company that uses a third party to test a reaction to something. In the case of the Epic v. Apple trial, Apple’s argument suggests Microsoft used Epic as the face of the trial to get a sense of how the law and public opinion would respond to the antitrust complaints.
Bloomberg notes Apple previously asked for that ruling, but pumped up its accusation in the latest filing.
“A reasonable observer might wonder whether Epic is serving as a stalking horse for Microsoft,” Apple said in the filing. “Microsoft shielded itself from meaningful discovery in this litigation by not appearing as a party or sending a corporate representative to testify.”
Further, the Cupertino, California-based company claimed Epic used as many witnesses associated with Microsoft as it did its own — Apple counted five each, including Susan Athey from Stanford University. It’s worth noting that when Athey testified on May 11th, Apple’s attorneys questioned her consulting work for Microsoft. Athey noted that she refrained from reviewing confidential documents Apple submitted in the case due to that work.
Microsoft says Epic “speaks and acts for itself”
In a statement to Bloomberg, Microsoft called Apple’s filing a distraction:
“Apple is trying to distract from legitimate concerns from many companies across the industry about its App Store policies and practices, including its refusal to allow game streaming in the Apple App Store. Epic speaks and acts for itself, and Microsoft and many other companies have raised concerns through our own voices, including directly with Apple itself.”
It’s also worth noting that Microsoft previously said it complied with its legal obligations. Additionally, Wright testified involuntarily.
Microsoft went on to say that it’s “clear” Apple doesn’t like Wight’s testimony, and it’s “equally clear” Apple has “no basis to challenge the substance of her testimony.”
Although Apple accused Microsoft of using Epic as the face of the lawsuit, the Redmond, Washington-based company hasn’t kept its support for Epic a secret. In 2020, Microsoft publicly backed the Fortnite-maker when Apple threatened to block Epic’s developer account. Microsoft has also taken issue with Apple’s App Store policies, most notably when the policies directly prevented Microsoft from bringing its xCloud game streaming app to iOS (Microsoft later made it available through a web app).