March 23, 2011

Jobs Ordered To Answer Questions In Antitrust Suit

Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd of the U.S. district court for the Northern District of California in San Jose, in a Monday filing, ordered Steve Jobs to be deposed in the class action suit filed against Apple in 2005.

Jobs is currently on medical leave to focus on his health. He is a survivor of a rare form of pancreatic cancer and has undergone a liver transplant.

Lloyd ruled that Jobs has "unique, non-repetitive, first-hand knowledge about Apple's software updates in October 2004 that rendered the RealNetworks's digital music files once again inoperable with iPods."

The court order stated that the attorneys for the plaintiffs may only ask Jobs questions regarding an iPod update that prevented digital music sold on RealNetworks to be downloaded to the iPod, and the deposition be limited to two hours.

"By limiting the scope of the deposition, the judge is trying to avoid using this as some sort of tool for embarrassment or annoyance," Professor David Levine at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, told Reuters.

In re Apple iPod iTunes antitrust litigation, Case No. 05-00037, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, consumers accuse Apple of using its FairPlay encryption technology to monopolize the digital player and audio download markets.

FairPlay was first introduced to stop users from making unauthorized copies of music bought from Apple's iTunes store, the Associated Press (AP) reports. This technology limited the songs to iPods, therefore other types of digital music players could not access them. It also made it difficult for other digital music purchases to be played on the iPod, however, songs from personal CD collections could be copied onto iTunes for download into the iPods.

The complaint states that RealNetworks Inc., a competitor of Apple, introduced Harmony software in 2004. This new technology allowed customers to play downloaded music from RealNetworks on the iPod. Apple quickly put a stop to this by announcing a software upgrade to iTunes, once again blocking the music bought from other sources.

Reuter reports that Apple may appeal the order. Spokesperson for Apple, Kristin Huguet, said that it will not comment on ongoing litigation.

Apple is not new to the court systems.  The company is involved in many lawsuits, both as a plaintiff and as a defendant. Earlier this week, in a court filing, Apple accused Amazon.com Inc. of improperly using the App Store trademark.

There is no indication of when the deposition will take place.


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