September 28, 2020

Apple found not guilty in $1 billion iPod antitrust trial


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16582143-mmmainBy Ray Jablonski, Northeast Ohio Media Group From

Apple has won an antitrust case against claims the company increased its prices on iTunes music between 2006-2009.

After just a few hours of deliberations, the eight-member federal jury sided with Apple that iTunes 7.0 was a meaningful improvement over previous versions of the software, rather than a plot to hobble rivals, The San Jose Mercury News reported.

During a two-week trial in Oakland, Calif., federal court, plaintiffs argued Apple orchestrated a digital music monopoly by restricting music downloads on the iPod to the iTunes store, The San Jose Mercury News reported. In particular, they pointed to iTunes 7.0, which blocked RealNetworks’ Harmony, a program that let users download music outside the iTunes store.

The plaintiffs represented a group of digital music consumers who purchased iPods from 2006 to 2009 and alleged Apple unfairly locked users into iTunes software on iPods, and in turn, locked out competitors, CNBC News reported. The complaint originally asked for damages of more than $350 million to pay a class of 8 million people who bought certain iPod models between September 2006 and the end of March in 2009. The damages could have gone to $1 billion had Apple been found in violation of antitrust laws.

Lawyers for Apple countered iTunes 7.0 brought users many key features, such as enhanced security, games and movies, The San Jose Mercury News reported. The company’s legal team also noted prices for Apple fell from 2006 to 2009, the period covered by the case, undercutting theories of a monopoly.

In the end, the jury decided unanimously the computer giant made legitimate product and security improvements to its iPod digital music devices and its iTunes software and store, CNBC reported.

Patrick Coughlin, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Reuters, “the jury called it like they saw it.” Plaintiffs attorneys told CNBC they will appeal the jury’s unanimous verdict and will file those papers within the next 30 days.

An Apple spokesperson told CNBC, “We thank the jury for their service and we applaud their verdict.”

The decade-old case harks back to a time before music streaming services gained popularity, when Apple had a near-stranglehold on the market for digital music, according to The San Jose Mercury News.

The trial had several twists, as several plaintiffs representing the class action suit were dismissed, and for a time it looked as though plaintiffs’ lawyers might not even have a plaintiff, CNBC reported.

IMAGE: iPod shuffle

In this March 12, 2009, file photo, Apple iPod Shuffles are posed for a photo at an Apple store in Palo Alto, Calif. Apple has won an antitrust case against claims the company increased its prices on iTunes music between 2006-2009. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

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