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U.S. court may consider delay of Apple e-books damages trial

The Apple logo is pictured on the front of the company's flagship retail store near signs for the central subway project in San Francisco, C
The Apple logo is pictured on the front of the company's flagship retail store near signs for the central subway project in San Francisco, C

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court will consider Apple Inc's request to put off a July trial to determine how much the iPad maker must pay in damages to customers in more than two dozen states over e-book price fixing.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said in a brief order on Friday that a three-judge panel will hear Apple's argument on why the trial should be put on hold while it appeals a judge's ruling that it conspired with five publishers to raise e-book prices.

The judge, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in New York, had denied Apple's request to postpone the trial on Wednesday. Cote ruled last year after a non-jury trial that Apple had conspired with the publishers in an effort to impede competitors such as Amazon.com Inc.

The 2nd Circuit's order on Friday also put on hold sending out notice to consumers who may be entitled to damages until the three-judge panel has ruled on Apple's request for a longer stay. The notices to consumers were scheduled to be sent out starting on Monday.

More than two dozen state attorneys general pursued the liability finding alongside the U.S. Department of Justice. Those states, along with attorneys for consumers, are now seeking up to $840 million in damages for e-book customers, with the exact amount set to be determined during the July trial.

Lawyers for Apple and for the consumer plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Spokespeople for the Texas and Connecticut attorneys general, who are leading the states' case, also did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Apple's appeal of Cote's liability finding could last months. The company denies any wrongdoing.

Cote appointed a federal monitor to oversee Apple's compliance policies. The company has fiercely opposed the monitorship but previously failed to convince the 2nd Circuit to block him from his duties while the appeal is pending.

The five publishers previously agreed to pay more than $166 million to settle related antitrust charges, including Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH's Macmillan.

The case is In Re: Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 11-md-02293.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Nate Raymond; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli, Bernard Orr)

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