Peter Kafka

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Apple Loses E-Book Antitrust Trial

tim_cook4All of the big publishers settled with the U.S. government after the feds accused them of conspiring to fix e-book prices with Apple.

But Apple fought the case, and now it looks like that decision may cost Tim Cook: A federal judge has ruled against Apple in the antitrust trial.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said Apple conspired with the major book publishers to raise e-book pricing, in conjunction with its iPad launch in 2010.

While Apple executives and lawyers had argued that the company was simply working with publishers that were unhappy with the way Amazon priced its books, Cote dismissed the idea that Apple was a passive player: “Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy,” she wrote in her decision.

The next step will be a trial for damages, though Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said the company will appeal. Here’s his comment: “Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations. When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. We’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.”

And here’s the DOJ’s victory dance, via a press release attributed to Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer: “This result is a victory for millions of consumers who choose to read books electronically … Companies cannot ignore the antitrust laws when they believe it is in their economic self-interest to do so. This decision by the court is a critical step in undoing the harm caused by Apple’s illegal actions.”

Here’s the full opinion:

Apple e-book case opinion

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