Apple Wins Chance to Argue for Delay of E-Books Damages Trial

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

In a rare break for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) in its long-running e-books antitrust litigation, the Cupertino-based company has secured an opportunity to argue for a delay of the upcoming damages trial, reports Reuters. In an order issued on Friday by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, Apple was referred to a three-judge panel that will hear its arguments in favor of a stay of class notification and a stay of the upcoming damages trial. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote — the judge who presided over the original e-books antitrust trial last summer — denied Apple’s request for a delay of the damages trial on Wednesday. Apple then filed an emergency motion with the appeals court.

The appeals court also granted Apple’s request for an administrative stay of the class notification that was due to commence on April 28, 2014. Without the stay of the class notification, Apple would have had to start sending notices to consumers who are entitled to damages under class certification. Judge Cote granted class certification to consumers suing the iPhone maker over the e-book price-fixing conspiracy in March.

Apple is currently being sued for damages by multiple state attorneys general and consumers. According to a press release from Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and lead attorney for the e-books litigation and class action against Apple, consumers may be entitled to up to $850 million in damages. The damages trial is currently scheduled to begin in July 2014, but may be delayed if Apple’s appeal is successful.

Last year, Judge Cote ruled that Apple violated antitrust laws when it orchestrated a price-fixing conspiracy with CBS’s (NYSE:CBS) Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group Inc., News Corp.’s (NASDAQ:NWS) (NASDAQ:NWSA) HarperCollins, Pearson Plc’s (NYSE:PSO) Penguin Group, and Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC (doing business as Macmillan). All five of the publishers have already reached a settlement on behalf of consumers.

In her ruling, Judge Cote noted that some e-book prices increased from $9.99 to as high as $14.99 after the price-fixing conspiracy took effect. Before 2010, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) was dominating the market by selling e-books at a standard price of $9.99. However, Apple raised the average retail price of e-books by coordinating the use of agency model contracts with various publishers.

After Apple’s guilty verdict, Judge Cote also issued an injunction that required Apple to hire an “External Compliance Monitor” for a period of at least two years. Apple has repeatedly tried to get the monitor provision of the injunction suspended while its appeal was pending but has so far been unsuccessful in that endeavor.

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