April 17, 2014
Once more into the breach, dear friends: Apple’s next antitrust trial begins July 14
by Alex Shephard
U.S. v. Apple is the trial that never ends. It goes on and on, my friends.
Well, not U.S. v. Apple exactly—Apple is still waiting on an appeal of the decision handed down by Judge Denise Cote last summer. But on Tuesday, Apple found out that it will be going back to court very soon when Cote shut down its attempt to dismiss lawsuits brought against the company for conspiring to fix ebook prices with five publishers by the attorney generals of thirty-three states—making this roughly the 17,000th motion that Cote has denied over the past several months. According to Publishers Weekly‘s Andrew Albanese (whose coverage of Apple’s legal woes has been indispensable), damages could “run as high as $840 million.” The trial will begin on July 14th of this year.
Cote dismissed Apple’s motion because she found its primary arguments to be “incompatible”:
“Apple appears on the one hand to concede that the States have standing to seek injunctive relief against Apple, but to contest that they have standing to seek damages arising from the same conduct by Apple. Apple fails to explain how this can be so.
Apple’s concession that the States have standing to enter federal court to put an end to the harm that Apple imposed on their economies is incompatible with its argument that the States do not have standing to recover damages in response to that same harm. The States have as concrete an interest in deterring future harmful antitrust violations by pursuing treble damages as they did in suing to stop such damages.”
Other points from Cote’s decision include:
- “The States have identified their own and their citizens’ concrete injury from Apple’s conspiracy with the publishers to raise ebook prices.”
- “At the liability trial, the States demonstrated that Apple’s price fixing conspiracy resulted in an ebooks market devoid of price competition—an injury that is “actual,” not conjectural.”
- Apple was not just “a knowing and active member” of the price-fixing conspiracy, it “forcefully facilitated it.”
- “The treble damages the States seek will send a clear message that violation of the antitrust laws carries consequences.”
- “In any event, Apple is incorrect.”
And finally, conclusively:
- “The Court carefully examined and rejected each of the challenges brought by Apple against certification. None of those challenges gave cause for any concern that Apple’s due process rights are at stake from an effort to obtain damages for its violation of the federal antitrust laws.”
So, all in all, it’s a pretty damning document—though none of it comes as much of a surprise, given Cote’s past decisions. Apple will pay damages related to its antitrust violations; at this point, it’s just a question of how much they’ll pay.
But, hey, it’s not all bad news. America’s favorite odd couple, Apple and its court-appointed compliance monitor, Michael Bromwich, are finally getting along.
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.