As verdict on ebook pricing settlement nears, Apple gets 5 pages to respond to DOJ

With U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote expected to rule on a proposed ebook pricing settlement between the U.S. Department of Justice and three publishers by the end of August, Judge Cote confirmed that Apple (s AAPL) may provide a further five-page objection by August 15.

Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have agreed to settle in response to the DOJ’s allegations that they colluded with Apple to fix ebook prices. (Apple, Macmillan and Penguin are fighting the case in court, but the trial will not begin until June 2013.) The proposed final settlement would require the settling publishers to terminate existing agreements with Apple and would end agency pricing for those publishers for two years.

The Department of Justice received 868 public comments about the settlement, nearly all of them opposing it, but refused to modify the settlement. On August 3, the DOJ filed a memo to the court requesting that Judge Cote approve the settlement without delay and without a hearing.

Apple has already filed a nine-page public comment objecting to the substance of the settlement. Cote’s new ruling confirms that Apple can file another five pages (not ten as Apple had requested) about the government’s handling of the process. She added that she is still considering Apple’s request to hold further hearings on the settlements. If Cote approves the settlements, the three settling publishers will be released from the ongoing antitrust case but will have to conform to the requirements mentioned above.

Separately, last week Barnes & Noble (s BKS) and the American Booksellers Association requested permission to file an amici curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief in the case, saying that “if the Court were not to permit ABA and Barnes & Noble to serve as amici in this matter, it is likely that DOJ’s numerous arguments in that filing that are specifically directed against Barnes & Noble and ABA, complete with their factual inaccuracies, would go unrebutted by any party currently before the Court.”

Judge Cote ruled this week (PDF) that the brief they already submitted — which “contains five pages of substantive arguments that do not address the question of whether leave to file amici curiae responses is appropriate, but rather oppose approval of the proposed Final Judgment” — will suffice as B&N and the ABA’s only comment on the matter, and “no additional filings from the ABA and Barnes & Noble shall be permitted.”