Court backs Apple ebook antitrust monitor

Court backs Apple ebook antitrust monitor

Summary: Apple failed to show a US appeals court that it would be 'irreparably harmed' by complying with its court-ordered antitrust monitor.

TOPICS: Apple, Legal

A US appeals court has shot down Apple's bid to derail a court-ordered monitor in its ebook price-fixing case.

The panel of judges specified, however, that the monitor's job is limited to making sure that Apple has an antitrust compliance program put in place, and that workers across the board are taught its details.

"It became apparent that the parties differed considerably regarding the proper interpretation of the order as to the scope of the monitor's duties," a panel of three justices from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals said in their ruling on Monday.

It is not the monitor's job to ferret out wrongdoing at Apple, according to the court.

With that in mind, the monitor is authorised to interview Apple executives, board members, or others at the California-based maker of iPhones, iPads, iPhones, and Macintosh computers.

However, "the government conceded that the injunction would not allow the monitor to investigate whether such personnel were in fact complying with the antitrust or other laws", the panel of justices said in the court order.

"We agree with that interpretation of the district court's order."

The US Department of Justice had argued that Apple was out of line in asking for an emergency order stopping the monitor from tending to business until the outcome of an appeal in the case.

Apple's bid for an emergency stay came after a federal judge rejected a different request by Apple to block the monitor's work and chided the company for failing to cooperate with him.

US District Judge Denise Cote denied the tech giant's request to delay the work of former prosecutor Michael Bromwich, appointed last year to ensure that Apple complies with an order to mend its ways after being found guilty of price fixing.

Cote said that the monitor has "important work to do", and interviewing Apple executives is part of it.

Apple failed to show that it would be "irreparably harmed" by complying with the court order or the monitor, according to the judge.

The company protested Bromwich's intent to question chief executive Tim Cook, lead designer Jony Ive, board member Al Gore and other top executives who aren't involved in day-to-day operations.

Apple also objected to the $1,100 hourly rate for himself and the $1,025 rate for his legal support team.

"The deterioration of the relationship between Apple and the monitor is unfortunate and disappointing," Cote said.

"It is strongly in the public's interest for the monitor to remain in place."

The trial focused on a six-week period in late 2009 and early 2010, during which Apple negotiated contracts with publishers ahead of its iPad launch and effectively reshaped the market for electronic books with a new pricing scheme.

In September, the judge who found Apple guilty of illegal price fixing for ebooks ordered the tech giant to steer clear of new contracts with publishers that could violate antitrust law.

Apple can still sell ebooks through its online channels, but it cannot make any special arrangements or collude with publishers to fix prices.

Topics: Apple, Legal

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • In theory, this new ruling gives the court appointed monitor the right

    to interview "anyone" at Apple to verify that this particular individual knows that Apple has an antitrust compliance program in place and that workers across the board are taught its details.

    Hmm. In theory than, this court monitor could schedule one interview a day and charge $1000.00 an hour to ask the most basic of questions.

    Boy, would I milk that gravy job for all it was worth. Personally, I'm sure that, with little effort, a three hour interview session could be arranged for at least 365 different employees.

    Not a bad take for one year's worth of "work". And then, if he was greedy enough - and what lawyer isn't greedy - he could start the whole interview process over again since the monitor's job is apparently "open ended" without a termination date. :-)
    • If you can't pay the dime - don't do the crime

      Apple should have thought of that before colluding with publishers to fix prices.

      In total - with the profits from the illegal price fixing - this is still a very good deal for Apple. Even if Apple is now a convicted conspirator.
  • The headline is not fully correct, because the court limited monitor's ...

    ... brazen behaviour.
    • Oh good grief…don't expect balance here!! Silly DDERSSS

      Why tell both sides of the story? Especially if the point you, dear DDERSS, raise doesn't fit the agenda