Legal Experts Suggest Justice Department Unlikely to Win Antitrust Suit Against Apple

In the wake of yesterday's announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and a number of book publishers over alleged price fixing, CNET notes that the government may have a hard time winning its case against Apple. The publishers may, however, find themselves on the losing end of the case should they be unwilling to settle.

"It's a harder case against Apple than the publishers," says Geoffrey Manne, who teaches antitrust law at the Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon and runs the International Center for Law and Economics.

One reason lies in the Justice Department's 36-page complaint, which recounts how publishers met over breakfast in a London hotel and dinners at Manhattan's posh Picholine restaurant, which boasts a "Best of Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator magazine. The key point is that Apple wasn't present.

But even the case against the publishers is not a sure thing for the Department of Justice. Some experts suggest that even amid claims that the publishers met to discuss a shift to an agency model being championed by Apple, the publishers may not be found guilty of antitrust violations.

Specifically, the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that pricing arrangements among competitors are not automatically considered to be violations of antitrust law, and that the setting of minimum retail pricing by manufacturers is a permitted policy.


Several of the publishers involved in the lawsuit have already settled, but Macmillan and Penguin are holding out along with Apple to fight the case. Almost immediately following the filing of the Department of Justice's lawsuit, a number of states filed their own claims against the companies, citing customer overcharges of over $100 million since the move to an agency model of pricing. Regulators in other countries are also reportedly looking at whether they wish to take action on the matter.

Top Rated Comments

(View all)
Avatar
109 months ago

So they weren't even present, and the publishers control the price? Umm.... why is Apple being sued again?


I thought it was due to the "Most Favored Nation" clause?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago

So they weren't even present, and the publishers control the price? Umm.... why is Apple being sued again?

Apple is being sued because it has agreements with the publishers who are accused of trying to use the agency model to allegedly price fix and is therefore considered complicit in the act. Apple is in effect "aiding and abetting" the alleged price fixing in the government's eyes by providing a vehicle through which the publishers can price fix.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago
If Apple or the other publishers lose this battle, you are going to see Amazon being turned into the Walmart of e books. They can just undercut like crazy until everyone else shrivels and dies. It's suing one problem and protecting a whole other problem.

I personally like the agency model because it actually supports the industry. I'm not defending Apple's methods, because I still don't know if they're guilty of anything illegal or not, but I'm just saying that I'm not in favor of paying less for something if in turn it kills the company providing the content to me.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago

The MFN clause itself is not a problem. The DOJ was alleging that Apple participated in a conspiracy to engage in price fixing. If they participated in a meeting where they and the publishers discussed a strategy to engage in price fixing, that could be a problem.

However, it would not be a problem if Apple simply individually negotiated terms with each publisher, even if the publishers told Apple what other deals they received, or if Apple told the publishers what other publishers were willing to accept. Unilateral action is OK, and revealing other deals is a legitimate attempt to gain leverage. That's the crux of Apple's defense in the separate class action lawsuit.


QFT. The CNET article is heavily spun, which is not surprising considering who wrote it. Legal analysts are going to be all over the map at this point, if only because they've seen only the government's complaint, not Apple's or the publisher's responses. But if you quote libertarian think tanks you are going to get predicable results.

Obviously it's the publishers who are at the pointiest end of the stick, but I don't think Apple needs to have been present at any meetings to be found a party to price fixing. It's going to be difficult to claim that all of these publishers came to the same terms with Apple by mere coincidence. The one quoted email from Jobs pretty much refutes that theory anyway.

All antitrust cases are difficult for the government to prosecute. Citing the DoJ's failures in recent history isn't telling close to the whole story, since most of these cases never make it to trial. They are overwhelming settled out of court by consent decrees, in which the government typically gets at least some of the changes they are seeking. Mr. McCullagh doesn't share that little factoid with us because it doesn't make the government look blithering.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago

Another waste of taxpayer dollars... :rolleyes:


Yep. The DOJ should be more concerned about regulating the price of gasoline and food, so we the consumers don't have to keep paying those outrageous prices. People can choose to buy or not to buy a book, but people have no other choice than to buy gas and food.

What happened to paying under $1 per gallon?
Score: 5 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
109 months ago

They essentially killed book stores buy undercutting them so there are few left, and did the same to ebooks with 90% of the market because they were selling below cost.


Amazon didn't kill the small book stores. Barnes & Noble and Borders did. Amazon then killed Barnes & Noble and Borders.
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

Apple Takes Legal Action Against Small Company With Pear Logo

Saturday August 8, 2020 11:09 am PDT by
Apple is taking legal action against the developers of the app "Prepear" due to its logo, according to iPhone in Canada. Prepear is an app that helps users discover recipes, plan meals, make lists, and arrange grocery deliveries. The app is a spinoff of "Super Healthy Kids," and the founders claim that they are facing litigation from Apple. Apple reportedly takes issue with Prepear's logo, ...

Apple Seeds iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 Public Beta 4 to Testers

Thursday August 6, 2020 10:05 am PDT by
Apple today seeded new public betas of upcoming iOS 14 and iPadOS 14 updates to its public beta testing group. Today's software releases, which Apple labels as fourth betas to keep them in line with developer betas, are actually the third betas that Apple has provided and they come two weeks after the prior beta releases. Public beta testers who have signed up for Apple's beta testing...

Supposed iPhone 12 Display Unit Leaks

Thursday August 6, 2020 8:13 am PDT by
An image supposedly of an iPhone 12 display unit has been shared online by leaker "Twitter user Mr. White". Compared to images of an iPhone 11 Pro display piece, this new unit has a reoriented display connector, reaching up from the bottom of the display, rather than from the left-hand side on iPhone 11 Pro. This may be due to the logic board moving to the other side of the device. A...

8 Third-Party Home Screen Widgets That You Can Try Out Now on iOS 14

Wednesday August 5, 2020 12:56 pm PDT by
One of the biggest new features of iOS 14 is Home Screen widgets, which provide information from apps at a glance. The widgets can be pinned to the Home Screen in various spots and sizes, allowing for many different layouts. When the iOS 14 beta was first released in June, widgets were limited to Apple's own apps like Calendar and Weather, but several third-party developers have begun to test ...

New 27-Inch iMac's Storage Affixed to Logic Board, 4TB and 8TB Configurations Have Expansion Connector

Friday August 7, 2020 7:46 am PDT by
Following a report from German blog iFun.de that claimed the new 27-inch iMac's flash storage is soldered to the logic board, MacRumors has obtained additional information in an internal document for Apple technicians. In the document, Apple says that the flash storage is indeed affixed to the logic board and cannot be removed. However, for the 4TB and 8TB configurations, Apple says that a...

2020 iMac Teardown Reveals Internal Changes and Similarities

Saturday August 8, 2020 12:44 pm PDT by
A teardown video, shared by OWC, reveals the internal changes in the new 2020 27-inch iMac. The 2020 27-inch iMac was announced earlier this week with 10th-generation Intel Core processors, AMD Radeon Pro 5000 series graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, up to 8TB of storage, a 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, higher fidelity speakers, and...

Kuo: iPhone 12 Camera Lens Supplier Experiencing Quality Issues, But May Not Affect Launch Schedule

Thursday August 6, 2020 9:30 pm PDT by
One of Apple's camera lens suppliers for the upcoming non-Pro iPhone 12 models is having quality issues, according to a new research note from analyst Ming-Chi Kuo seen by MacRumors. The issues are, however, unlikely to have an impact on Apple's shipping schedule, presuming that Apple's other main supplier can make up the difference. Kuo says that Genius Electronic Optical has discovered...

Google's $349 Pixel 4a vs. Apple's $399 iPhone SE

Wednesday August 5, 2020 1:45 pm PDT by
Google this week launched its newest smartphone, the $349 Pixel 4a, a low-cost device that's designed to compete with other affordable devices like Apple's iPhone SE. We picked up one of the new Pixel 4a smartphones and thought we'd check it out to see how it measures up to the iPhone SE, given that the two devices have such similar price points. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel ...

Sony WH-1000XM4 Noise-Canceling Headphones Now Available for $350

Friday August 7, 2020 2:01 am PDT by
Sony's flagship WH-1000MX3 noise-canceling headphones have been among the best on the market for some time, and this week Sony released its fourth-generation WH-1000XM4 headphones boasting some notable improvements on the previous model. The XM4s feature the same basic design as the XM3s, but are one gram lighter at 254 grams due to slightly larger ear pads and some subtle tweaks to the...

Apple Announces New 27-Inch iMac With 10th-Gen Processors, Up to 128GB RAM, 1080p Webcam, True Tone, and More

Tuesday August 4, 2020 8:07 am PDT by
Apple today announced a new 27-inch iMac with faster 10th-generation Intel Core processor options, next-generation AMD graphics, up to 128GB of RAM, a higher-resolution 1080p front-facing FaceTime camera, a True Tone display with a nano-texture glass option, a T2 chip, higher fidelity speakers, studio-quality microphones, and more. A breakdown of the new 27-inch iMac's features and specs:10th...