A verdict against Apple in the civil anti-trust trial in which the iPhone maker is accused of fixing prices on eBooks would set “a dangerous precedent,” forever changing how companies do business, Apple’s attorney said during closing arguments Thursday.
If Judge Denise Cote finds Apple guilty, it will have a “chilling and confounding effect not only on commerce but specifically on content markets throughout this country,” Apple lawyer Orin Snyder was quoted by CNet.
The U.S. Department of Justice has accused Apple of being the ringleader in a plot to raise eBook prices “to strip retailers of pricing authority.”
The government filed its lawsuit against Apple and five publishers April 11, 2012, accusing the group of not only plotting to eradicate retail price competition, but of forcing customers to fork out more for their eBooks.
The department’s Anti-trust Division previously settled its claims against Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Simon & Schuster Inc. and, most recently, Macmillan Publishers.
CEO Tim Cook said last month that Apple had refused to settle because the U.S. Justice Department asked the company to sign a document admitting wrongdoing. Cook added that he does not believe Apple has done anything wrong.
Cote, according to Reuters, asked Snyder several pointed questions during his closing arguments in the New York courtroom. For instance, Cote asked if Apple knew the publishers “were willing to work together to put pressure on Amazon.”
Snyder, however, said there was no evidence Apple was aware of any such planning among the publishers before the company suggested creating an online bookstore for its coming iPad. Snyder said Apple had no knowledge of the publishing executives calling each other and having dinner meetings.
“There is no such thing as a conspiracy by telepathy,” Snyder was quoted by Reuters.
U.S. Department of Justice attorney Mark Ryan was also on the receiving end from Cote.
She asked Ryan what he had to say to refute Apple’s “argument that it didn’t raise prices as the eBooks would have been unavailable at any price.” The question was tied to information presented at the trial that the publishers were keeping popular new releases from eBookstores on the virtual shelf until the hardback versions had been on sale for some weeks.
Ryan said there is no way to know for sure how things would have worked out without Apple’s involvement.
“We don’t know what course competition would have taken the industry on,” he was quoted by Reuters.
The DoJ is not looking to fine Apple — instead, it wants the judge to order Apple to refrain from behavior connected with eBook price fixing in the future.
If the judge does rule against Apple, the firm could find itself back in court courtesy of customers who choose to launch class action lawsuits.
Cote’s ruling is not expected for at least two months.
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Guilty Verdict Against Apple Would Set ‘Dangerous Precedent,’ Lawyer Says
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