As we all know by now, tech giant Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) loves a good fight. However, as is often the case with those so accustomed to winning, knowing when to quit isn't a particularly well-developed skill at Apple.
After back-to-back defeats in its original e-book price fixing case and the subsequent appeal, Apple appears to be readying a final plea to the nation's highest court. However, whether Apple should pursue this course of action remains far from certain.
Apple appeals to Washington
On Sept. 16, Apple filed a request to extend the filing window for its potential petition to have the U.S. Supreme Court, the highest court in the land, hear an appeal to its 2012 antitrust case.
For those in need of a refresher, the U.S. Department of Justice accused Apple and five of the largest book publishers of colluding to artificially increase the price of e-books in Apple's digital bookstore. Their motivation was to counter e-book giant Amazon.com, whichcreated a significant disruption to the economics of the publishing business by selling electronic copies of books at levels well below those of their print editions.
Seeking to combat the online retail powerhouse's growing influence over their industry, large publishers found a willing ally in Apple, who sought a way to expand the presence of its own digital book platform in the wake of the iPad's release. If you haven't seen the litany of documentation between Apple executives and book publishers, rest assured they leave little doubt as to whether Apple and the book publishers had conspired to work to reduce Amazon's power in the e-book market through a coordinated price scheme, which is why Apple lost both its initial court case in 2013 and its 2015 appeal.
Now, by filing extension request, Apple appears determined to pursue its innocence until it has exhausted all options. The extension request would give Apple until Oct. 28 to file its request that its case be heard by the Supreme Court, giving this now-protracted legal battle the possibility of real closure one way or another.
Enough is enough
The U.S. Supreme Court determines for itself which cases it hears. The Court reportedly receives about 10,000 petitions annually, of which only 75-80 actually land on the docket for oral argument. Given that Apple lost both its initial trial and the subsequent appeal, one wonders about its odds of actually securing one of the few spots in front of the nation's top legal entity. As an Apple shareholder, I certainly hope Apple finally calls it quits with this protracted legal entanglement.
Guilty in the court of public opinion, and twice guilty in the legal system, Apple should probably end this pointless legal maneuvering and simply own up to its mistake. Even if Apple's and the publishers' behavior served to combat the equally anticompetitive behavior on Amazon's part in the e-book market, refusing to end a negative storyline like this hinders the narrative's closure in the public eye. People simply can't forget or move on from a storyline if it refuses to go away, and that's something I think Apple is forgetting, here.
We know it's not a matter of finances, so this has now clearly become about wounded pride at Apple. Apple can afford to run any case into the ground. It could pay the $450 million in assessed damaged and fund an ongoing legal battle well beyond any of our lifetimes. However, the dogged pursuit of its innocence here, especially in light of Apple's repeated courtroom defeats, is clearly the single greatest impediment in this storyline's resolution.
Apple should give up the ghost and finally put this drawn-out narrative to rest once and for all.