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Plaintiffs: 'Hey judge! Soak Apple for $840m in ebook price-fixing suit'

Damages are $280m, they say, but should be tripled because case was 'conclusively proven'

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Apple may be on the hook for as much as $840m after having been found guilty of ebook price-fixing.

The state attorneys general who joined the price-fixing suit along with the US Department of Justice have told the court that not only should Apple be liable for $280m in damages, but that antitrust law says the amount should be tripled to $840m, seeing as how Apple's guilt was "conclusively proven" in court, Bloomberg reports.

Last July, US District Judge Denise Cote ruled against Apple in the price-fixing trial – a non-jury affair – in which charges had been brought against Cupertino by consumers, attorneys general of 33 states, and the DoJ. The feds didn't seek damages, but the other plaintiffs did – and we now know how much, according to the sources speaking with Bloomberg.

Five publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster – had also been implicated in the price-fixing scheme, but they all settled rather than go to trial. Apple refused to settle, fought the case in court, and lost.

The DoJ had requested a raft of remedies in the case, including extending the judgment to include not only ebooks, but also "music, movies, television shows or other content." It also wanted to force Apple to allow other ebook sellers, such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble, to peddle their wares through their own apps, and thus not have to pay Apple its standard 30 per cent iTunes Store cut.

Cote cut Apple slack on those DoJ requests, but she did rule that Apple must refrain from the price-fixing activities that had stirred the ire of the many plaintiffs, and that Cupertino employ an on-premise watchdog to ensure that it would not be naughty for at least the next five years – a stipulation to which Apple has objected, had its objections rejected, and which is now under appeal, with Apple to plead its case before a federal appeals panel this week.

As for the $280m or $840m in damages, Cote says she will conduct a trial on damages this year. But even if Apple gets socked with the larger figure, as Bloomberg perspicaciously pointed out, that amount will be a mere 0.5 per cent nibble out of Cook & Co.'s mighty $158.8bn cheese-wheel of cash.

Well, 0.529 per cent, to be more accurate – but such rounding errors mean little to a company that still retains the world's largest market capitalization, despite recent stumbles.

It's the principle that matters, right Mr. Cook? ®

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