Jury clears Apple of antitrust charges in US iTunes exclusivity case

A class-action lawsuit alleged Apple locked out competing devices and music services to hurt its rivals

Apple didn't violate antitrust law by restricting music bought on iTunes from being played on devices other than iPods, a federal jury has decided.

The jury in Oakland, California, decided in Apple's favor on Tuesday after a trial that featured testimony on video by the late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. The class-action lawsuit was filed nearly 10 years ago.

The plaintiffs said Apple harmed consumers by not letting them take music they bought on iTunes and play it on devices made by Apple's competitors, or to play songs from non-Apple music services on iPods. That came about because of changes in the products that Apple made specifically to hurt its competitors and exercise monopoly power, they said.

The jury cleared Apple of antitrust behavior because it found that the changes were part of a broader set of product updates.

"We thank the jury for their service and we applaud their verdict," Apple said in a prepared statement. "We created iPod and iTunes to give our customers the world's best way to listen to music. Every time we've updated those products -- and every Apple product over the years -- we've done it to make the user experience even better."

The plaintiffs plan to appeal the decision at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The jury should have been allowed to separate out the software changes that prevented cross-vendor listening from other changes that were introduced as iTunes and iPods were updated, said Patrick Coughlin of Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd, an attorney for the plaintiffs.

"We think that the other product 'improvements' should have been separated out," Coughlin said in an interview after the verdict. "I think it was almost impossible for the jury to just consider the whole thing."

Stephen Lawson covers mobile, storage and networking technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Stephen on Twitter at @sdlawsonmedia. Stephen's e-mail address is stephen_lawson@idg.com

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