Apple Ten Year Trial Comes to a Close


A 10-year long trial involving Apple is finally coming to a close. The trial involves a class action against the company regarding accusations that the they blocked competitive services’s music from playing on iPods. The plaintiffs, comprising a group of businesses and individuals, have argued that the Silicon Valley giant violated anti-trust laws.

The complaints arose after Apple released iTunes 7.0, an update which customers said suppressed their ability to play music that had not been downloaded from the iTunes Store. Plaintiffs said the California based company had exerted undue control over the consumer experience thereby behaving in an anticompetitive manner.

Apple’s lead attorney Bill Isaacson said there was no evidence that this was the case. “ …there’s no consumers, no iPod users, no surveys, no Apple business documents,” he said. Isaacson’s client claims it had designed the iPod hardware and software to deliver the best possible user experience. Isaacson closed his argument with an emotive plea to jurors to not hold the “great company liable” and tell them they should stop innovating.

The anti-trust claims followed the company’s 2006 release of iTunes 7.0 which included video capability, but also limited users’ ability to play songs downloaded from competing music stores. After nearly 10 years, the Apple anti-trust case, which is based on claims that the technological giant intended to monopolize the digital music market, is coming to a close. Each side has now presented their final argument.

Closing lawyer for the plaintiffs Patrick Coughlin, said on Monday that security tweaks included in the 7.0 update “knocked out competitors” such as RealNetworks Inc, a company which claims to enable customers to access digital media through the device or platforms of their choice. Coughlin said the update introduced “switching costs,” which discouraged the iPod’s existing users from moving outside of the iTunes and iPod environment when upgrading their hardware.

Couglin continued his closing argument in Oakland’s U.S District Court, telling the eight member jury that it was like “blowing up your iPod.” The attorney was speaking of claims about a software error that reportedly wiped the iPod’s library if the program found songs that had not been purchased or imported through iTunes.

Part of Isaacson’s defense has rested on a statement recorded by Apple co-founder, the late Steve Jobs. In the deposition, recorded just months prior to his death, Jobs said his company constantly revised both its iTunes and iPod software in an effort to exclude hackers. Jobs reportedly was concerned that in the event of hacks, the company could have been subjected to violations of record label agreements, which would further cost the company as a result of music being withheld from Apple’s iTunes Store.

The decade long case, which involves iPods sold between September 12, 2006 and March 31, 2009, has now had its two weeks in court. If the court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, Apple stands to be liable for up to $350 million in damages, a figure which could triple under anti-trust laws.

In the closing arguments of the trial, each party presented emotive appeals to the jury. Isaacson claimed the plaintiffs aimed to hold Apple “liable for innovating,” while Couglin said, “This is all about competition.” Although Apple is no stranger to negative claims and accusations, there will no doubt be some respite as the 10-year anti-trust trail comes to a close.

By Monica Grant

The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times

Photo by Gavin Clarke – Flickr License

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