Amid lawsuits, Steve Jobs may yet prove to be worm in Apple

Three years after his death, Steve Jobs remains a presence in American courtrooms - and that's not necessarily good news for Apple, reports The New York Times.

Steve JobsNext month, the company is set to go to trial in the third major anti-trust lawsuit it has faced since Jobs died. His emails will play an important role in the case, as they did in the last two. But lawyers will probably have to work hard to give his statements a positive spin. The potential damages - around $350 million - are a pittance for a company that in its last quarter had an $8.5-billion profit.

Executives are often told by their lawyers to be careful what they put in writing for fear it will end up as evidence in a courtroom.

Perhaps Jobs did not get the memo. His emails in past lawsuits - a mix of blunt litigation threats against his opponents and cheery financial promises for potential business partners - have made him an exceptional witness against his own company, even beyond the grave.

The emails in all these cases present the good and bad of Steve Jobs - charmer and bully, someone who may not always have played by the rules.

He was a "genius in terms of his vision for the future," said Michael A Carrier, a professor at Rutgers School of Law. "But it went along with a really healthy ego and perhaps the lack of an antitrust filter - thinking about how these words would appear years later tossed up on the screen in front of a jury."

The latest case to bring Jobs' spirit into a courtroom is set to begin in Oakland, California. It is a class action involving older iPods, which played only songs sold in the iTunes Store, or those downloaded from CDs, not music from competing stores.

The plaintiffs are consumers who say Apple violated antitrust law because to keep their music, people had to stay with the iPod, and buy higher-priced ones rather than cheaper, alternative music players. Apple has since discontinued this system.

Jobs' emails and videotaped deposition taken before his death, plaintiffs' lawyers say, will portray him as planning to break a competitor's product to protect Apple's grip on digital music.

"We will present evidence that Apple took action to block its competitors and in the process harmed competition and harmed consumers," said Bonny Sweeney, the lead plaintiffs' lawyer.

Apple declined to comment.

A few of the emails have already been made public. In one, sent in 2003 to other Apple executives, Jobs expressed concern about Musicmatch, a software company, opening its own music store.