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MP3 Player Plaintiffs Go For Third Bite At The Apple

Posted  February 11, 2010

Plaintiffs in The Apple iPod iTunes Anti-Trust Litigation – a putative class action accusing Apple of anti-competitive conduct in the portable MP3 player market – are hoping the third time’s the charm as they again seek to convince the court they have a viable claim.

The plaintiffs have filed an amended complaint after the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California twice rejected claims that the relationship between iTunes and iPod products constituted illegal tying.

The amended complaint argues that the relationship between Apple’s iTunes and iPod products constitutes unlawful maintenance of monopoly power and attempted monopolization under the Sherman Act, and also violates various California statutes.

According to the plaintiffs, consumers paid a higher price for iPods than they would have if competing devices had the capability to play songs from the iTunes store.  However, while the plaintiffs claim iPods are the only portable player on which songs purchased from iTunes can be played, such songs can still be played on a non-portable basis (such as directly through a computer, or through a computer linked to a receiver).  This ability of consumers to purchase and play iTunes songs without ever purchasing an iPod is the primary reason the court previously rejected plaintiffs’ tying claims.

It will be interesting to watch whether the plaintiffs’ reformed complaint survives court scrutiny.  This is especially true in light of the plaintiffs’ attempt to pursue monopolization claims against two products that the court has already ruled are not illegally tied.

Tagged in: Monopolization,