By Basil Katz
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday set a 2013 trial date for a lawsuit from the U.S. government accusing Apple and book publishers of conspiring to fix the prices of electronic books.
Following a hearing in Manhattan federal court, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote said a bench trial in the case will begin June 3, 2013, for Apple and two publishers who are fighting the antitrust charges.
The U.S. Justice Department sued Apple in April, saying it colluding with five publishers to boost e-book prices in early 2010, as the Silicon Valley giant was launching its popular iPad tablet.
Amazon Inc, which makes the Kindle e-reader, had long sold e-books for as little as $9.99. The government complaint quoted Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs as wanting to offer publishers a means to boost prices, and "create a real mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99."
Apple argues it has not conspired with anyone or fixed prices for e-books in an effort to thwart Amazon's dominance of that fast-growing market.
Apple says that its foray into e-books has actually fueled demand for e-books by forcing Amazon and rivals, including Barnes & Noble Inc, to compete more aggressively, including by upgrading e-reader technology.
The publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group, which are respectively units of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH and Pearson Plc, are fighting the antitrust case.
News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster and Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group settled the case with the U.S. Justice Department.
The three publishers are also on track to submit a settlement proposal to the judge by the end of the summer to resolve claims by a group of U.S. states, lawyers for the book companies and the states said on Friday.
"I am confident that we'll get all 50 states and six territories and common wealths to sign on" to the settlement, said Gary Becker, a Connecticut assistant Attorney General.
The case is In Re: Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 11-2293.
(Additional reporting by Jessica Dye; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)
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