Apple has been ordered to prepare for a damages trial regarding Apple's e-book price fixing. The trial, set to take place in May 2014, was ordered by U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote in order to fix the damages caused by the price-fixing deals that Apple had put together with many publishers.
Cote ruled last month that Apple had conspired with five book publishers to change prices in order to beat competitors such as Amazon, which is still the No. 1 source for online books.
A lawyer for the plaintiffs in the case, Steve Berman, had asked for a specific set of dates to be put in place for the trial and various events leading up to it. The judge agreed with the dates and decided to require that Apple stop interviewing experts by Dec. 13 and to also determine whether they want to certify a class of plaintiffs by the same date.
Penguin, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group were accused by the federal government of working with Apple to change pricing deals in order for Apple to beat its competitors. However, all the publishers settled the case outside of court, leaving Apple to stand trial alone.
Apple tried to make the case that it was just negotiating with publishers to provide competitive deals, but neither the judge nor the Department of Justice ended up seeing it that way. Apple continues to maintain it did nothing wrong, and plans to appeal the verdict that it engaged in anti-competitive practices.
The ruling, if not appealed, will hurt Apple in the e-book market and could also restrict many of its various business practices moving forward for all types of media sales. Cote wants to restrict Apple from entering into any agreements with publishers for five years. Still, that is less restrictive than the punishment sought by the Justice Department.
Apple maintains it was not given a fair trial nor provided the opportunity to present evidence supporting its case. Apple's attorneys have told Cotes they believe she made a number of mistakes in conducting the trial.
It is true that Cote did refuse to see some of Apple's evidence during the trial, and then ended up disregarding other evidence Apple used to defend itself. But in the end it still appears as though Apple was trying to beat its competitors with unfair business practices.
Since the appeal is unlikely to be successful, Apple is actually lucky that Cote was lenient with her ruling. Originally, the Justice Department had requested that Apple be under the supervision of an external monitor for five years, but Cote decided that Apple's adherence to a strict internal antitrust policy would be better for everyone.