Apple E-Books Antitrust Case by U.S. Set for 2013 Trial

Apple Inc. (AAPL) and book publishers that haven’t settled e-book price-fixing claims will face trial next year in a case filed by the U.S. Justice Department, a federal judge in New York decided.

The U.S. joined 15 states and Puerto Rico in claiming Apple, CBS Corp. (CBS)’s Simon & Schuster, Lagardère SCA’s Hachette Book Group, News Corp. (NWSA)’s HarperCollins, Macmillan and Penguin colluded to fix prices of e-books. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, who is presiding over the consolidated lawsuits in federal court in Manhattan, set the trial for June 3, 2013.

“Several parties, Apple and DOJ are pushing for a fast trial as fast as can be accomplished that is consistent with justice,” Cote said yesterday as she set the nonjury trial with Apple and other defendants that haven’t settled.

U.S. antitrust officials have stepped up enforcement against anticompetitive price-fixing agreements in industries including health care and auto parts. Regulators have also increased scrutiny of Cupertino, California-based Apple’s digital publishing, mobile computing and music retail businesses to make sure the iPad maker hasn’t thwarted competition on its way to becoming the world’s most valuable company.

Three Settle

Three e-book publishers named in the U.S. government’s antitrust lawsuit, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group and HarperCollins, settled their cases after the complaint was filed April 11.

A group of 15 states and Puerto Rico filed a similar lawsuit. Connecticut Assistant Attorney General Gary Becker told Cote today that a settlement with the three publishers and all 50 states would be agreed to by Aug. 10.

“We are in the process of getting the other states to sign on,” Becker said. “I think we’re off to a good start. I have no reason to believe they won’t sign up.”

Shepard Goldfein, a lawyer for Harper Collins, told Cote today that he was confident the accords with the states would “get done.”

Pearson Plc (PSON)’s Penguin unit and Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, continue to fight the lawsuit.

Apple’s digital book-pricing practice may have cost consumers more than $100 million, Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said at a Washington news conference after that suit was filed.

The case is U.S. v. Apple, 12-cv-02826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporters on this story: Patricia Hurtado in New York at pathurtado@bloomberg.net; Christie Smythe in Brooklyn federal court at csmythe1@bloomberg.net

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

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