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What could happen if Apple, DoJ go to trial over e-books

As of last Friday, Apple is the last remaining defendant in the US Department of Justice e-book antitrust case. On Friday, Macmillan settled with the government, the last of the original five publishers named in the case to do so. Now Apple is standing alone against the DoJ and is expected to end up in court on June 3, 2013. So, what are the possible ramifications if Apple doesn't settle prior to that court date?

According to a Reuters story published today, the case alleges that Apple conspired with the five publishers to keep e-book prices in the iBookstore and other retailers higher than those available from Amazon.com. If the case goes to trial, US District Judge Denise Cote will seek a judicial decree stating that Apple violated antitrust law. If Apple loses, a number of plaintiffs could use the judgment as evidence against Apple in separate actions seeking monetary damages.

Those plaintiffs could seek compensation for higher prices paid for e-books plus damages. Antitrust laws allow plaintiffs to recover triple the actual damages, and in 2012 alone, those damages were estimated to be at more than $200 million.

If Apple went to trial and lost, the company could lose big. But the company may want to go to trial to establish an antitrust principle that could help it forge future deals with entertainment companies. Apple could still choose to settle with the DoJ, but at this time it is showing no signs that it plans to do so.

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