June 20, 2013, 2:20 PM — "Word games," an "overreaching narrative" and a "case of inferences" were a few choice phrases used by attorney Orin Snyder Thursday in closing arguments for Apple in the U.S. Department of Justice's antitrust, e-books price fixing case against the tech giant.
The DOJ brought the case against Apple and five of the largest book publishers in the U.S. for allegedly conspiring to limit price competition and raise prices in the e-book market in 2010 in an effort to stop Amazon from pricing their best-selling electronic books at US$9.99 each.
Both the DOJ and Apple are making their closing arguments Thursday before Judge Denise Cote, who will decide the outcome of the antitrust suit. The five large publishers also named in the DOJ suit have already settled for a cumulative $164 million, leaving Apple to defend its practices in court. Cote presided over the three-week, non-jury trial in the U.S. Southern District Court of New York in Manhattan.
For Apple's summation, Snyder characterized the interactions that Apple had with the five publishers as typical conversations and negotiations that accompany any business agreement. At no point did Apple try to coordinate the activities of the publishers in an attempt to fix the prices of electronic books for the market. "The evidence does not show this," Snyder told the court, arguing that the DOJ made this case solely on "overreaching" interpretation of electronic documents.
Snyder focused on the timeline between December 2009 and January 2010 to rebut the DOJ's assertions over what took place between Apple and the publishers. He noted that at the time there was "turmoil" in the e-book market and that Apple executives, who had no prior knowledge of this market, were speaking with publishing heads just to hear their concerns. He also offered multiple examples of disagreement between Apple and the publishers over the proposed contracts, this contention serving as proof that the parties were not acting in unison to fix retail prices.
The case stems from contracts that Apple made with the publishers in 2010, just before the company launched its iPad mobile computing device. In January of that year, each publisher -- HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, MacMillan, and Simon & Schuster -- agreed to let Apple sell their electronic books in a relatively novel business model, one in which Apple would sell their books at the prices the publishers had set, and reap 30 percent of the retail price.