Apple Asks Judge to Dismiss Claims Over Music Download Monopoly

A federal judge was asked by Apple Inc. (AAPL) to dismiss a consumer antitrust lawsuit claiming the company limited choice by linking iPod music downloading to its iTunes music store.

Robert Mittelstaedt, an attorney for the Cupertino, California-based company, yesterday told U.S. District Judge James Ware in San Jose, California, that blocking iPod music downloads that used competitors’ software was intended to improve downloading quality for iTunes customers.

Changes that Apple made in 2004, just days after Internet music software company RealNetworks Inc. (RNWK) announced a technology allowing songs from its online store to be played on iPods, weren’t anticompetitive, he said.

“Apple’s view is that iPods work better when consumers use the iTunes jukebox rather than third party software that can cause corruption or other problems,” Mittelstaedt said at a hearing.

Apple had cited 58 consumer downloading complaints as the source of its decision to upgrade iPods to exclude other companies’ downloads working with the hand-held devices. Ware asked whether Apple had tried to confirm through scientific tests whether other companies’ downloads were the true cause of consumer complaints.

Mittelstaedt said the company had not done such tests.

‘Battle of Experts’

Bonny Sweeney, a lawyer representing iTunes customers who sued, said the plaintiffs could not locate any legacy software that would allow them to conduct accurate tests, prompting Ware to say that a trial may become a “battle of experts.”

Ware said he will rule by May on the request to dismiss the case.

By March 2009, digital music files offered on iTunes were sold without proprietary software, according to court records.

Apple co-founder and chief executive officer Steve Jobs, ordered by a separate judge to answer questions in the case, met with plaintiff attorneys for a deposition on April 12, Sweeney said yesterday. She declined to comment further.

Jobs took a medical leave from the company starting Jan. 17. The CEO, who has battled a rare form of cancer, has taken time off for medical reasons three times in the past seven years.

Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, declined to comment on pending litigation or on the Jobs deposition. The RealNetworks media team didn’t respond to a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

The case is Apple iPod, iTunes Antitrust Litigation, C05- 0037JW, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

To contact the reporters on this story: Pamela MacLean in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California in San Francisco; Karen Gullo in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

Press spacebar to pause and continue. Press esc to stop.

Bloomberg reserves the right to remove comments but is under no obligation to do so, or to explain individual moderation decisions.

Please enable JavaScript to view the comments powered by Disqus.