Apple Wins iPod Antitrust Suit

A jury took three hours to decide that Apple was not guilty of using iPod and iTunes digital rights management (DRM) restrictions to stifle competition. In a trial a decade in the making, jurors decided that changes from iTunes 6 to iTunes 7 were meaningful, and not a scheme to boost Apple's market share.

In a statement after the jury verdict, Apple said, "We created iPod and iTunes to give our customers the world's best way to listen to music. Every time we've updated those products—and every Apple product over the years—we've done it to make the user experience even better."

According to The New York Times, the jury was instructed to assess whether two versions of Apple’s iTunes software were genuine product improvements. Their verdict was that the changes in iTunes 7 were indeed genuine and meaningful improvements.

There was originally going to be a second claim for the jury to decide, but that was tossed by the judge when the plaintiff's own expert witness admitted that claim had no assessable impact.

At issue was how iTunes 7 prevented songs purchased from RealNetworks from playing either in iTunes or on iPods. At the time, Apple accused RealNetworks of hacking Apple's FairPlay DRM, and Apple said it was patching that hack. Plaintiffs tried to argue that Apple did it to limit competition and extend its monopoly power in both digital media players and music downloads.

A major problem with that argument is the pesky fact that iPod prices fell during the 2006-2009 time frame covered by the class action. This runs directly contrary to the monopoly claims of the plaintiffs, and Apple's attorneys were kind enough to point that out to the jury.

A lack of evidence wasn't the only problem experienced by the plaintiffs—the lack of an actual victim also played in Apple's favor. Plaintiff attorneys had both of their representative class members disqualified early in the trial. The judge finally approved a substitute mere hours before the case went to the jury, but that new member didn't have time to testify.

Apple hammered the point home during closing arguments, telling the jury that the plaintiffs didn't have any examples of anyone supposedly harmed by Apple's actions.

The plaintiff attorneys told The Verge they will appeal.