A U.S. government lawyer opened a civil trial by portraying Apple as a corporate bully that swaggered into the market for electronic books in 2010, forcing an end to price competition and costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Justice Department attorney, Lawrence Buterman, said Monday a dramatic price increase in e-books was “no accident or unforeseen outcome” but the result of a deliberate plan by Apple and five book publishers to eliminate Seattle-based Amazon.com’s $9.99 bargain price for popular e-books.
He asked U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, who is overseeing a trial expected to last several weeks, to find that the computer company had violated anti-trust laws.
Defending itself from U.S. Department of Justice allegations of e-book price fixing, Apple on Tuesday pointed to the diverse contract terms it made with five major publishing houses as evidence against purported conspiracy.
A follow-up report to yesterday’s proceedings from AllThingsD says Apple lawyer Orin Snyder brought up the negotiated terms multiple times during the bench trial now in front of U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote.
The composition of Apple’s agreements with five of the biggest book publishers in the world is central to the Justice Department’s antitrust argument, which holds that the companies worked hand-in-hand to falsely inflate e-book prices in the iBookstore. At the core of Apple’s pricing strategy was a so-called “most favored nations” clause that allows publishers to set e-book pricing, but precludes them from selling the same content to other retailers at a lower price.
Here is the DoJ opening statement (June 3, 2013):