Steve Jobs emails featured in Apple iPod U.S. antitrust trial

Tue Dec 2, 2014 3:10pm EST
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By Dan Levine

OAKLAND, Calif. (Reuters) - The late Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple Inc (AAPL.O: Quote), led the company to violate antitrust laws by restricting music purchases for iPod users to Apple's iTunes digital store, an attorney for consumers suing Apple said in court.

Opening statements began on Tuesday in an Oakland, California, federal court in the long-running class action, which harks back to Apple's pre-iPhone era. The plaintiffs, a group of individuals and businesses who purchased iPods from 2006 to 2009, are seeking about $350 million in damages from Apple for unfairly blocking competing device makers. That amount would be automatically tripled under antitrust laws.

Plaintiff attorney Bonny Sweeney showed the court emails from top Apple executives, including Jobs, discussing a challenge in the online music market from Real Networks, which developed a rival digital song manager. When it was developed, music purchased on Real's store could be played on iPods.

"There was a concern by Apple that this would eat into their market share," Sweeney told the eight-member jury.

Apple eventually introduced a software update that barred RealPlayer music from the iPod. Plaintiffs say that step discouraged iPod owners from buying a competing device when it came time to upgrade.

Apple attorney William Isaacson said the company had every right to improve iTunes to protect iPods from security threats, as well as from the damage caused by Real Networks software.

"It posed a danger to the consumer experience and to the quality of the product," Isaacson said.

The trial evidence includes emails from Jobs, as well as video deposition testimony the former Apple chief executive gave shortly before he died in 2011.   Continued...

The Apple logo on display at the Sydney Apple Store is illuminated in red to mark World AIDS Day, in Sydney December 1, 2014. REUTERS/David Gray