Apple CEO Cook must testify in e-books antitrust case: judge

Apple Inc Chief Executive Tim Cook must sit for a deposition in the U.S. government's lawsuit against the company over alleged price-fixing in the e-book market, a judge ruled on Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan granted the Justice Department's request to compel Cook to testify for four hours in the lawsuit, which accuses Apple of conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.

The government had argued Cook likely had relevant information about Apple's entry into the e-books market. It also said Cook likely had conversations related to e-books with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011.

Apple had fought the request, calling his testimony "cumulative and duplicative" since the government had already deposed 11 other executives at the iPad maker.

But Cote, on a teleconference, cited the death of Jobs as a key reason in ordering the deposition.

"Because of that loss, I think the government is entitled to take testimony from high-level executives within Apple about topics relevant to the government case," as well as to counter Apple's defense arguments, she said.

A spokesman for Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Apple is the only remaining defendant in the lawsuit, which was filed in April 2012 in U.S. District Court in New York.

All of the publishers, including Pearson Plc's Penguin Group, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers Inc and CBS Corp-owned Simon & Schuster Inc, have already settled. The last publisher, Macmillan, settled in February.

A trial is set for June. The government is not requesting damages but is seeking a finding that Apple violated antitrust law and an order blocking it from engaging in similar conduct.

The case is United States v. Apple Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-02826.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York; Editing by Martha Graybow and Nick Zieminski)