Apple faces possible May 2014 trial on ebook damages

Apple faces possible May 2014 trial on ebook damages
The federal judge who ruled that Apple Inc violated antitrust law by conspiring with five major publishers to raise prices of ebooks has scheduled a May 2014 trial to determine damages, according to an order made public on Wednesday.

Absent an earlier resolution, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan would be expected at the trial to consider whether Apple should pay damages that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars.

Last month, Cote sided with the federal government and 33 U.S. states and territories in concluding that Apple conspired with the publishers to undermine pricing by rivals including Amazon.com Inc, which dominates the market for electronic books.

The schedule for a possible trial on damages calls for the government and Apple to wrap up their interviews with experts by December 13. Court papers on whether to certify a class of plaintiffs must also be fully submitted by that date.

"These are the dates we proposed so we are pleased," said Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr declined immediate comment.

Cote had ruled on July 10 that Apple played a "central role" in the conspiracy with the five publishers, which the government said caused typical prices for top-selling ebook titles to rise from the $9.99 that Amazon would charge to $12.99 or $14.99.

The judge is also considering injunctive relief to prevent Apple from engaging in another price-fixing conspiracy.

At a hearing last Friday, she said she would consider a plan to restrict the contracts that the Cupertino, California-based company could enter with the publishers over a five-year period, but with lesser restrictions than the governments had proposed.

She was also hesitant about the government's proposal that Apple retain a court-appointed external monitor, saying she preferred a strong internal antitrust compliance program.

The publishers include Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers LLC,Penguin Random House LLC, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH's Macmillan. All have settled with regulators.

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-02826.

© Thomson Reuters 2013

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