Apple knocks out another plaintiff in iPod case, lawyers scramble

Lawyers in California are beating the bushes to find someone who bought an iPod between 2006 and 2009, after a judge disqualified their remaining plaintiff in a class action suit and gave the lawyers until Tuesday to rustle up someone suitable.

The decade-old case turns on the fact that iPods would not play songs from rival music stores — Apple claims this was a necessary security feature, while the lawyers say it was an antitrust violation that illegally increased the price of iPods (the DRM technology in question is no longer used today).

The case is now on thin ice because both the so-called representative plaintiffs had not actually bought the iPods during the time of the controversy, which makes them ineligible to seek $350 million on behalf of all the other iPod owners who might have a case against [company]Apple[/company].

While one of the two plaintiffs withdrew voluntarily last week, the judge in the case has now struck the remaining one, Marianna Rosen of New Jersey. The judge made the decision after Apple’s sales records revealed that the two iPods in question had been purchased by her husband’s law firm.

In response, the judge gave the lawyers until Tuesday to find another representative plaintiff among the reported eight million people who bought an iPod during March of 2006 and December of 2009.

The class action lawyers claim they have a number of eligible candidates on hand. A lawyer for Apple, meanwhile, claimed the company did not want to win on a technicality related to the plaintiff.

“We were not thrilled with this. We want to win this case on the merits, and we think we’re going to,” the lawyer told the judge.

If the lawyers are able to find a replacement plaintiff in time, it means the case will again center on whether Apple’s decision to allow the iPod to play only songs from the iTunes store and from CDs was a legitimate security measure, or if it was instead a means to stifle competition.

Meanwhile, in a separate proceeding, various media outlets including Bloomberg filed an urgent petition with the court to release a video deposition of the late Steve Jobs, which formed a key piece of evidence in the case.

Overall, the level of interest in the case, which turns on long-abandoned technology and business practices, reflects the public’s ongoing fascination with Apple.