Apple hammers Google witness hard in e-book pricing trial

As the e-book saga rolls on, Apple attempts to poke holes in Google's testimony and the Justice Department's case.

The U.S. District Court in New York, the scene of the e-books battle between the Justice Department and Apple. Shara Tibken/CNET
NEW YORK -- Apple had a field day with Google in court here on Thursday.

Apple started to pick away at the Department of Justice's claim that the tech giant conspired to inflate e-book prices by repeatedly and rapidly firing questions at a key Google witness.

The tactic paid off for lead Apple attorney Orin Snyder, who began to wear down on Thomas Turvey, director of strategic relationships for Google. Turvey appeared increasingly frazzled and frustrated as the afternoon went on.

During his testimony, Turvey admitted that he couldn't remember which publishing executives he spoke to, the circumstances around those conversations, or any helpful details. He offered few specifics and kept referring to his written testimony.

"You can't recall the single name of anyone at a single publisher?" Snyder asked.

"No," Turvey said, which became a common response.

In a day when Apple faced off against one of its biggest rivals, its attorneys capitalized on the opportunity. It was vital for Apple to raise doubts about Turvey's testimony and portray him as unreliable because the Justice Department's case partly rested on his claim that the publishers told him they were forced by Apple to adopt a model that would result in higher book prices. By poking holes in Google's testimony, it also weakened the Justice Department's case.

The Justice Department contends that Apple forced the publishers to move to an agency model, in which the publishers set the prices, and away from the traditional wholesale business, which typically results in lower prices for the consumer.

Turvey, reiterating comments made in his written testimony to the court, repeated several times that "the publishers stated to me that they couldn't do business on wholesale terms because their agreements with Apple did not allow it."

Snyder, however, sought to raise doubts about Turvey's memory and the phrasing of his written testimony. At one point, Snyder got Turvey to admit he didn't know if he or his attorney had written certain segments of his declaration.

Google's testimony is important to the Justice Department because the publishers hadn't offered much help earlier in the trial. Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy had testified Wednesday that her company -- which is owned by CNET's parent company, CBS -- switched to a new sales model because it wanted to, not because Apple forced it to do so.

Snyder pointed out there was a big difference between a publisher being required to change its terms and wanting to do so on its own because it made business sense.

Snyder also took pot shots at Google's operations, including saying the company has tried to compete with Apple businesses like iTunes but has failed. Judge Denise Cote didn't let Turvey respond to that remark. Snyder also asked Turvey if he considered Google to be "a powerful company in the media and entertainment" industry. Turvey said no.

Cote finally dismissed the court at 5 p.m. ET, saying she wanted to let Turvey go so he could "begin to enjoy" the day. Turvey will take the stand again on Monday. The trial lasts for two more weeks.

 

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