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U.S. court denies Apple's bid to delay e-books damages trial

By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday rejected Apple Inc's bid to delay a July trial to determine damages after the company was found to have colluded to fix the prices of e-books.

In a brief order, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said the July 14 trial should proceed as scheduled, while Apple separately pursues its appeal of U.S. District Judge Denise Cote's ruling that it conspired with five publishers to raise e-book prices.

Cote ruled last year after a non-jury trial that the conduct of the iPad maker impeded e-book competitors such as Amazon.com Inc .

More than two dozen state attorneys general joined the Department of Justice in suing Apple over e-books price fixing. Those states, as well as a group of consumers, are seeking up to $840 million in damages.

The exact amount of damages will be litigated before Cote at a trial scheduled for July 14.

A lawyer and a spokesman for Apple did not immediately comment on the order.

A spokeswoman for Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen, who is leading the case along with his Texas counterpart Greg Abbott, said, "We are pleased with the decision and continue to prepare for the upcoming damages trial." A spokeswoman for Abbott also said he was pleased with the ruling.

The appeal of Cote's liability finding is expected to last months. Apple has denied any wrongdoing.

Cote has also appointed a federal monitor to supervise Apple's compliance policies. The company has strenuously objected to the monitor's activities, calling them intrusive and too costly.

The five publishers previously agreed to pay more than $166 million to settle related antitrust charges. They include Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH's Macmillan.

The case is In Re: Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation, U.S. et al. v. Apple Inc. et al., 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 13-3741.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Richard Chang)

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