» United States v. Apple, Inc. et al (PDF)

Like many others I don’t have a clear opinion on the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Apple and publishers over supposed e-book price fixing. On the one hand everyone wants lower prices for e-books but on the other what kind of sense does it make to use antitrust laws to make Amazon an e-book monopolist?

One thing I keep seeing, though, is reference to Apple’s use of the term “aikido move”, as if it’s some insidious sign of the company’s evil intent. Here’s the passage from the Department of Justice’s filing:

The plan — what Apple proudly described as an “aikido move” — worked.

I hope the prosecutors aren’t hoping to make a big deal about this because in the great history of antitrust suits in this country, this is probably the most innocuous statement ever. I studied aikido for a number of years and while I never got very good at it I do know something about its basic tenets. Aikido was developed as a martial art to allow a person smaller than their attacker to defend themselves without harming the attacker.

Now, colloquially it’s become a term that simply implies craftiness, but if the DOJ gets into a literal argument over the use of this term they’re going to find it’s entirely appropriate. In the world of e-book publishing, Amazon is the giant and Apple the little guy. The literal use of the term means that Apple simply wants to go out about its business without being attacked by Amazon and without harming Amazon.

Of course, Apple also apparently said it thought it could “trounce” Amazon by opening up its own store, so I’m not saying it’s without a drop of malicious intent here. I’m just saying this particular term is entirely apropos.