DOJ may sue Apple over ebooks as early as today, sources say

WASHINGTON/SAN FRANCISCO, Wed Apr 11, 2012 – The Justice Department could sue Apple Inc. as early as today over alleged electronic book price-fixing, while settling with several publishers as early as this week, two people familiar with the matter said.

The Justice Department is investigating alleged price-fixing by Apple and five major publishers: CBS Corp’s Simon & Schuster Inc.; HarperCollins Publishers Inc.; Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group; Pearson and Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH.

A lawsuit against Apple, one of the parties not in negotiations over a potential settlement, could come as early as Wednesday but no final decision had been made, the people said.

Apple declined to comment. The Justice Department and the five publishers could not be reached for comment.

The Justice Department is investigating whether deals Apple cut two years ago with the quintet of major publishers – when the consumer electronics maker launched its iPad tablet computer – were done with the intent of propping up prices for digital books, sources have said.

As part of those agreements, publishers shifted to a model that allowed them to set the price of e-books and give Apple a 30 percent cut of sales, the sources have said.

Talks between the Justice Department and some publishers had been proceeding, with settlements expected as soon as this week, one of the two sources familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity, because the discussions were not public.

U.S. Department of Justice seeks information on Google-Motorola deal

WASHINGTON ― Federal antitrust regulators have asked for more information about Google Inc’s. planned $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, Motorola said it received a request for “additional information and documentary material” from the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division.

Motorola said Google also received a similar request and repeated its expectation the deal would close by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

In a post on Google’s official blog on Wednesday, Google Senior Vice President Dennis Woodside said the DOJ’s “second request” was “pretty routine” and is something Google has faced in past deals such as its successful purchase of ITA Software.

“We know that close scrutiny is part of the process and we’ve been talking to the U.S. Department of Justice over the past few weeks,” Woodside said.

Google, whose free Android software is the top operating systems for Internet-enabled smartphones, announced in August it plans to acquire phone-maker Motorola.

The deal will give Google one of the mobile phone industry’s largest patent libraries, as well as hardware manufacturing operations that will allow Google to develop its own line of smartphones.

The deal comes at a time when Google, the world’s No.1 Internet search engine, has been under increasing regulatory scrutiny. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the European Union are both investigating Google’s business practices. The company faces accusations it uses its clout in the search market to beat rivals as it moves into related businesses.

“While this means we won’t be closing right away, we’re confident that the DOJ will conclude that the rapidly growing mobile ecosystem will remain highly competitive after this deal closes,” Woodside said.