Smart Business Isn't Conspiracy, Apple Says as Antitrust Trial Closes
MANHATTAN (CN) - Apple did not conspire with publishing executives to set e-book prices, a lawyer for the tech giant said Thursday in closing arguments to cap off a three-week trial.
"There's no such a thing as a conspiracy by telepathy," Orin Snyder said.
The argument is key to Apple's defense that it played no role in a publishing-industrywide conspiracy to inflate and fix e-book prices and drive competition with Amazon.com, a major player in the then-budding e-book industry.
Apple is the last defendant standing in the government's antitrust case against six of the world's leading publishers and two subsidiaries. Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster all settled in April 2012. Penguin joined the settling bandwagon in December, and Macmillan copped to its role in the scheme two months later.
The federal government argued that publishers were miffed at Amazon for making the $9.99 price on e-books "an entrenched consumer expectation," and that they and Apple conspired to fix and drive up prices for e-books in the infancy of the technology's development in early 2010.
Snyder emphasized, however, that Apple was not conspiring to fix prices, but merely making "lawful, pro-competitive and legitimate" business decisions as it "walked into the middle of an e-book revolt."
"This was not some nefarious design to organize publishers into a collective unit," Snyder said. "Apple's intent was to open its own bookstore, not to upend an industry."
After the government delivers its closing this afternoon, it could still be several months before U.S. District Judge Denise Cote delivers her verdict.
Snyder warned Thursday that a ruling against Apple would create a "chilling and confounding effect not only on commerce" but also "on content markets throughout this country."
During the trial, top Apple executive Eddy Cue denied that the company conspired with publishers to inflate the cost of e-books to end the so-called "Amazon problem."
Prosecutors presented the court with emails between Cue and the late Steve Jobs, illustrating that Jobs worked closely with Cue on the new venture.