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Apple seeks trial over DoJ price fixing allegations

Apple on Wednesday rose to challenge the U.S. Department of Justice's lawsuit over alleged ebook price fixing, asking for a trial at the first hearing in Manhattan federal court since the DoJ's filing last week.

A lawyer for Apple said that the Cupertino, Calif., company wants to defend itself in court against allegations that it colluded with five major book publishers to fix the price of ebooks provided through the iBookstore, reports Reuters.

Standing by Apple in its pursuit of a separate trial are publishing houses Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH, and Penguin Group, which is owned by Pearson.

"Our basic view is that we would like the case to be decided on the merits," said Apple lawyer Daniel Floyd to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote. "We believe that this is not an appropriate case against us and we would like to validate that."

The three remaining publishers that decided not to fight the accusations, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc and Lagardere SCA subsidiary Hachette Book Group, settled out of court. Fifteen states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico were reportedly in settlement talks with the three publishers.

Shepard Goldfein, a lawyer for HarperCollins, told the court that if all 50 states were to settle, it could impact a class action suit from consumers. The company is apparently hedging its bets and attempting to avoid any additional fallout from the multiple lawsuits.

"There could be something left of the class, or nothing left of the class," Goldfein said.

With the settlement, Apple can no longer practice its "most favored nations" policy that has allowed publishers to name the price of ebooks in return for not selling the products to other resellers like Amazon. The internet sales giant will likely revert back to its original wholesale model, which allows it to set the prices of ebooks at below-cost prices to lure customers.

Hachette and HarperCollins agreed to pay $51 million in restitutions to a group of U.S. states for consumers who bought ebooks under Apple's scrutinized sales model. Simon and Schuster is also looking to enter the settlement a company lawyer said. It is unclear what plans the states have for settlement the money.

The allegations of price fixing are also being studied by the European Commission, and the government body announced that it had received settlement proposals from Apple, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette Livre and Macmillan.