Bloomberg reports that Steve Jobs will have to testify in an anti-trust suite which alleges that Apple operated a music-downloading monopoly.

Lawyers for consumers who filed the 2005 complaint won permission to conduct limited questioning of Jobs, under an order issued yesterday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd in San Jose, California. The deposition can’t exceed two hours and the only topic allowed is changes Apple made to its software in October 2004 that rendered digital music files engineered by RealNetworks Inc.  inoperable with Apple’s iPod music player. “The court finds that Jobs has unique, non-repetitive, firsthand knowledge about the issues at the center of the dispute over RealNetworks software,” Lloyd wrote.

At issue was Apple’s blockage of RealNetwork’s Harmony software which briefly allowed users to use RealNetworks’ music in iTunes and on iPods.  A few days after Harmony was released, Apple updated its own software to block Harmony from working in Apple’s Music ecosystem.

Apple has tried to fight any testimony from Jobs. In a memo filed on January 18, 2011, Apple’s legal team wrote:

Unable to show that the testimony of Apple’s other witnesses was inadequate, Plaintiffs sifted through the more than one million pages of documents Apple produced in discovery and could point to only a small handful of documents – two articles by PC World and the Associated Press, five emails, and an essay entitled “Thoughts on Music” by Mr. Jobs – as putative support for their theory that Mr. Jobs “was likely the architect of the exclusionary policies that are at issue.” A review of these documents reveals that Plaintiffs have mischaracterized Mr. Jobs’ involvement in any relevant conduct. Plaintiffs inability to identify any meaningful evidence after six years of litigation rebuts their sweeping characterizations of Mr. Jobs as “central” to this case.

It isn’t clear what affect Jobs’ medical status will have on his ability to testify.  The fact that he looked great at the iPad 2 announcement would seem to indicate he is physically fit to testify, though it still isn’t clear why he’d be asked to do so.

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Seth Weintraub

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