In less than two weeks, Apple will head to trial over allegations that it colluded with five publishing houses in an effort to inflate the price of e-books. Indeed, the Justice Department last week released internal Apple emails which it claims supports the allegation that Apple was a "ringleader" in a price-fixing conspiracy.
In one such email, Apple executive Eddy Cue explained to Steve Jobs that he was able to secure a deal with Random House by threatening to block an app of theirs from getting into the App Store.
With a trial on the matter scheduled to kick off on June 3, Bloomberg reports that US District Judge Denise Cote -- who happens to be overseeing the trial -- expressed confidence that the government will be able to prove its case against Apple.
I believe that the government will be able to show at trial direct evidence that Apple knowingly participated in and facilitated a conspiracy to raise prices of e-books, and that the circumstantial evidence in this case, including the terms of the agreements, will confirm that.
The judge's comments seem a bit curious because, as Bloomberg notes, this will not be a jury trial. Judge Cote alone will be deciding the case on its merits. Consequently, one wonders why Cote is comfortable expressing such a strong view before hearing any testimony and the full breadth of arguments from both parties. To that end, Judge Cote did qualify that her opinion at this point is tentative.
In an emailed statement to Bloomberg, Apple lawyer Orin Snyder remarked:
We strongly disagree with the court's preliminary statements about the case. The court made clear that this was not a final ruling and that the evidence at trial will determine the verdict. This is what a trial is for.
Apple has previously stated that it was not operating with the intent to artificially increase the price of e-books, but rather wanted to foster innovation in the e-book marketplace and break "Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry."