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Federal judge gives preliminary view that DOJ will prevail in Apple antitrust case

US District Judge Denise Cote expressed a tentative view on Thursday that the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] would be able to show at trial that Apple [corporate website] knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise the prices of e-books with five publishers. She said her view was based largely [Reuters report] on material submitted as evidence. The trial, set for June 3, will proceed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website]. The DOJ's Antitrust Division [official website] has reached settlements with Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., Simon & Schuster Inc., Penguin Group (USA) Inc., and Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC, known by the public as Macmillan [JURIST reports], leaving Apple as the sole defendant remaining in the litigation.

The DOJ alleged that Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster [corporate websites] conspired to fix the prices of e-books in response to Amazon's discount pricing strategy. The DOJ brought the suit in April, and the court denied a motion to dismiss [JURIST reports] in May. Commentators had been very mixed in response to the proposed settlement agreement. Some commentators have suggested that the DOJ's lawsuit is merely "superficial" [JURIST op-ed] and that the effect of the agency agreements may actually have been a net-positive to consumers if Amazon was selling e-books at a loss in order to drive the sale of Kindles. Other commentators, however, state that commentators against the settlement agreement and the defendants' arguments are based on a premise that competition is wrong [JURIST op-ed].

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