SPECIAL URGENCY: Why Is Apple Rushing E-Book Lawsuit?

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) wants to rush its New York antitrust lawsuit over e-book pricing by finishing evidence gathering by year’s end, according to the U.S. government. Apple acknowledges it has a “special urgency” in ending the case, but on Thursday, the government said in a letter filed in federal court in Manhattan that it wants until March 2013 to finish gathering facts in a lawsuit it brought this year.

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The federal government brought suit against Apple this year, joining 15 states in saying the company had conspired with several publishers in the fall of 2009 to force e-book prices several dollars above the $9.99 being charged by industry leader Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN).

Government lawyers told a judge that they need until March for discovery, as they were trying to reveal “a long-running, detailed conspiracy that affected millions of U.S. consumers and likely involved multiple executives at each co-conspirator.”

Furthermore, “some of the acts in furtherance of the conspiracy occurred in Europe, where the defendants also pursued a similar course of conduct aimed at European consumers.”

The lawyers said they needed time to sort out what happened and “bring the full course of the defendants’ conduct to light,” while Apple argued in its own letter that its approach reflects a “special urgency” in resolving the case because of public interests at stake and to vindicate its conduct. Apple reiterated its claim that it has “done nothing wrong.”

“It is also a reality that the mere existence of litigation of this type creates marketplace uncertainties, which impact competitive conditions and the public interest,” Apple added.

Of course, that “special urgency” could also be Apple’s subtle hint at a new product launch, over which the lawsuit could cast a dark cloud. The iPad — the device that brought Apple into the e-book arena in the first place — has been updated each March since its introduction in 2010. It’s likely Apple has another tablet in the works for next spring, and some speculate it could even be a smaller, lower-end device designed to compete with e-readers like Barnes & Noble’s (NYSE:BKS) Nook or even Nook Color tablet, which retails for $169.

If the government gets its wish, the case will likely draw on through the launch of Apple’s next iPad, as well as other devices, like the iPhone 5 expected in October, and software — iOS 6 will launch this fall.

A hearing in the case is set for Friday.

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