Steve Berman

The federal judge who ruled that Apple Inc violated antitrust law by conspiring with five major publishers to raise prices of e-books has scheduled a May 2014 trial to determine damages, according to an order made public on Wednesday. Absent an earlier resolution, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan would be expected at the trial to consider whether Apple should pay damages that could reach hundreds of millions of dollars. Last month, Cote sided with the federal government and 33 U.S. states and territories in concluding that Apple conspired with the publishers to

Publishers Hachette and HarperCollins slipped further away from the class action lawyer who wants them to pay over an alleged e-book price-fixing conspiracy.

In an order signed yesterday in New York federal court, Justice Denise Cote ruled that the class action could be halted on the grounds that the publishers are close to a consumer restitution settlement with state governments.

What this means in practice is that the class action lawyers will be frozen out because the state governments’ deal trumps the consumer class action.

If Amazon (AMZN) is the 500-lbs. gorilla in the e-book trade, why has Apple's much smaller iBookstore been targeted? The answer lies in a deal that Steve Jobs cut with the five publishers named in the probe shortly before the iPad press conference in January 2010, when he announced the formation of the iBookstore.

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