On December 15th, Apple and the United States continued their heavyweight battle with a round of oral argument in the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. It’s been a while since this feud started so I’ll briefly recap the claims of the combatants. The DOJ wrote in its Second Circuit brief, “In late 2009 and early 2010, Apple orchestrated and participated in a conspiracy with five major book publishers to take control of retail pricing for electronic books (e-books) and to raise prices to agreed-upon levels. The conspiracy was successful: retail e-book prices for the vast majority of the Publisher-Defendants’ new releases and bestsellers rose from $9.99 to $12.99 or $14.99. Consumers paid almost 20% more, on average, for all of the Publisher-Defendants’ e-books.” Apple offered a “no good deed goes unpunished” defense, contending that it did not join any conspiracy and, in fact, offered a pro-competitive, innovative alternate to the monopolistic stranglehold that Amazon.com had on the e-book market.
The DOJ prevailed in the trial court with Judge Denise Cote finding that Apple had helped orchestrate a horizontal, per se Sherman Act price-fixing violation by book publishers to raise prices. The district court found that “with Apple’s active encouragement and assistance, the Publisher Defendants agreed to work together to eliminate retail price competition and raise e-book prices, and again with Apple’s knowing and active participation, they brought their scheme to fruition.”