An Oakland jury found Tuesday that Apple did not violate federal antitrust laws when it blocked music downloaded from competitors' software from playing on iPods and other devices, ending a nearly decade-long legal battle that could have cost the California tech giant as much as $1 billion.
According to court filings, the jury found software updates made to iTunes 7.0 were "genuine product improvements," a finding that meant no antitrust violation was committed under federal law. Had the jury ruled otherwise Tuesday, it would have begun to consider whether Apple had violated the law.
"We thank the jury for their service and we applaud their verdict. We created iPod and iTunes to give our customers the world’s best way to listen to music," Apple said in a statement. "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.”
Tuesday's verdict marks the end of a protracted series of legal challenges involving the iPod's inability to play music downloaded from somewhere other than iTunes. A suit was filed in 2005 claiming that such lack of interoperability violated federal antitrust laws, but those claims were dismissed in federal court in 2012.
The only surviving claim, which was effectively shut down by Tuesday's verdict, alleged that a 2006 iTunes update illegally shut out RealNetworks Inc. from the MP3 market.
That suit contended that an Apple update specifically blocked files downloaded through RealNetworks, giving Apple a monopoly on the MP3 market by way of the iPod.
In court filings, RealNetworks argued Apple's dominance of the market resulted in consumers being overcharged by more than $352 million, a figure that could have tripled with antitrust penalties had the jury found against Apple on Tuesday.
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