Apple Asks Supreme Court to Review Ebook Price Fixing Case

Apple isn't giving up the fight to overturn the book price fixing ruling that says the company conspired in anti-competitive behavior to artificially drive up book prices. The iPhone and iPad maker submitted an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday and now must wait to hear if its case will be heard.

Apple takes ebook price fixing case to the Supreme CourtApple and publishers Penguin, MacMillan Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Hachette Book Group were named in a Department of Justice lawsuit claiming the companies worked together to artificially drive up the cost of books by forcing resellers to charge set prices instead of buying wholesale and determining their own prices. The publishers settled out of court to avoid potentially devastating fines, but Apple stood its ground and went to court.

In the end, Judge Denise Cote ruled in favor of the DOJ and placed a court appointed monitor in the company to ensure Apple didn't engage in anticompetitive practices. The move was unprecedented because Apple didn't agree to allow it, and monitors are typically used only when there's a long history of related violations.

In this case, Apple was accused of conspiring with publishers ahead of the original iPad launch in 2010 to drive up book prices. Amazon did—and still does—control the book market by selling titles below cost. Competitors can't absorb the losses that go along with price matching Amazon, and publishers were facing what they feared was an unsustainable business model. Apple said it was simply trying to get a foothold in a market dominated by Amazon's online sales, and was striking independent contracts with each publisher. 

Apple's appeals didn't get Judge Cote's ruling overturned, leaving the Supreme Court as the company's last option. Assuming the court upholds the ruling, Apple will pay out US$450 million in a settlement with the attorneys general in 33 states. If the ruling is overturned, however, Apple will be able to say the Supreme Court is backing what it claimed all along: there was no conspiracy and Apple didn't act inappropriately.

Now we wait to see if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, and considering how slow the legal system moves, we may need to be very patient.

[Thanks to Reuters for the heads up]