Apple loses bid to dismiss states' e-book antitrust cases

Judge rejects Apple's argument that states lack standing in the case, which seeks as much as $840 million in damages.

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Apple lost an attempt on Tuesday to get a judge to dismiss antitrust lawsuits filed by state attorneys general that accuse the tech giant of conspiring with book publishers to fix e-book prices.

US District Judge Denise Cote rejected Apple's contention that the motion should be rejected because the states lacked standing in the matter. In her 24-page opinion, Cote said that Apple presented an argument that seemed to contradict itself.

"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," Cote wrote. "Apple fails to explain how this can be so."

In April 2012, the Justice Department sued Apple along with five of the six largest book publishers in the US, 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's rejection of Apple's motion to dismiss allows the attorneys general in 33 states to pursue hundreds of millions of dollars in damages during a July trial. State attorney generals 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.

The states had sought liability alongside the Justice Department, but as the case proceeded into the damages phase, Apple contended that the states lacked standing to seek damages against Apple. However, Cote ruled that Apple's argument was incompatible with its concession that states had the right to take their case to federal court to end anti-competitive behavior.

"Apple has cited no authority to support the distinction it is advocating here between the standing to seek an end to an antitrust violation and the standing to seek damages for that violation," Cote wrote.

The damages portion of the trial is scheduled to begin July 14.

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