Apple loses bid to postpone state AGs' e-book antitrust case

Judge says the antitrust lawsuit filed by state attorneys general has already been delayed two months and should begin on July 14.

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Apple lost a bid Wednesday to postpone an antitrust lawsuit filed by state attorneys general seeking damages from the tech giant for allegedly conspiring with book publishers to fix e-book prices.

In a brief order denying Apple's motion to stay the trial, US District Judge Denise Cote said the trial had already been subjected to delay and should begin as scheduled on July 14. Cote's ruling allows the attorneys general in 33 states to pursue hundreds of millions of dollars in damages during a July trial.

The Justice Department sued Apple along with five of the six largest book publishers in the US in April 2012, accusing them of conspiring to set e-book prices and working together to break Amazon's hold on the market with its Kindle e-book reader. After a non-jury trial, Cote concluded that Apple orchestrated a scheme with publishers to fix the prices of e-books. Apple is appealing that ruling.

Cote, who noted that the trial to determine damages had already been delayed two months to allow for adequate class notification, cited a letter written by Eric Lipman, an assistant attorney general in Texas, in denying Apple's motion.

"If any stay is issued, the feasibility of a July 14 trial is significantly decreases," Lipman's letter said. "The Court should not countenance Apple's latest effort to further delay a jury's determination."

After Cote's ruling, Apple filed a motion for an emergency stay of the case with the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals.

"The district court is... pressing forward with class notice and a trial in both cases in July, despite the irreparable harm to Apple's reputation among its consumers if class notice is disseminated, not to mention the confusion and expense from successive notices to consumers if the certification order is reversed," Apple said in its filing.

The state attorneys general had sought $280 million in damages but asked in January that the amount be tripled, because the US had already "conclusively proven" that Apple had orchestrated the conspiracy. As the case proceeded into the damages phase, Apple sought dismissal of the attorneys general case, contending that the states lacked standing to seek damages against Apple. Finding Apple's argument confusing and contradictory, Cote denied that motion earlier this month.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment on the matter and will update this report when we learn more.

 

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