updated 06:50 pm EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Appeals court clears way for damages assessment even as appeal continues
The Second US Circuit Court of Appeals has rejected Apple's bid to delay a damages trial until after the company has appealed the original decision. As a result, a July court date will go forward with the same judge -- Denise Cote -- who originally found Apple guilty of conspiring to fix e-book prices alongside the publishers in a bench trial last year. Judge Cote will preside over the damages trial as well.
The appeals court found that the damages trial (scheduled for July 14) should proceed as planned. The trial will determine damages that would be paid to over two dozen states and consumer groups. The plaintiffs are seeking $280 million in damages, but if Judge Cote decides that Apple's collusion with the publishers was willful, the damages could be tripled to a total of $840 million.
Apple's appeal of Judge Cote's original decision -- based on numerous judicial errors and a pre-determined outcome that she announced ahead of the trial even beginning -- will be heard at an unannounced date later this year or early next year, and is expected to take months. Apple has denied any wrongdoing whatsoever, fought against the court-ordered antitrust compliance monitor imposed by the judge and refused to settle with the Department of Justice following the capitulation of the publishers. The latter group ultimately paid more than $166 million to settle the charges with the DOJ and the states, but did so reluctantly and testified on Apple's behalf during the trial.
Amazon, meanwhile -- having effectively been handed back a virtual monopoly on the e-book market -- has returned to its tactic of bullying publishers in order to gain more favorable terms. The etailer is currently blocking e-books by Hatchette group, one of the five major publishers, from being sold.