A clause within the current e-book price fixing settlement may let Apple ride off in the sunset with only $70 million in damages instead of the agreed-upon $450 million.

Manhattan Judge Denise Cote isn’t feeling so good about the progress of the Apple E-Book Price Fixing Case due to one little clause.

While she ruled in April 2012 that Apple was guilty of fixing e-book prices to thwart the financial progress of Amazon Inc., in collaboration with five publishers (HarperCollins, Penguin Group, MacMillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group), a clause in the settlement terms allows Apple to get away with paying no more than $70 million if her decision is reversed on appeal and sent back to Cote. So far, 33 US territories have agreed to settle out-of-court with Apple through a preliminary settlement document that requires Cote’s approval, and the Cupertino, California Company doesn’t even owe interest on the monies until the appeals decision arrives.

While Apple could’ve been liable for up to $800 million in damages, the five publishers who collaborated with the iPhone manufacturer agreed to put up $166 million of their own – reducing Apple’s required total to just $674 million. The company won’t pay a penny beyond $450 million if it loses its appeal – thanks to Apple’s July 16th agreement to pay $450 million ($50 million will go to consumers) out-of-pocket.

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“I’m concerned about the terms of the settlement,” Cote said. The 2nd Circuit could reverse Denise Cote’s decision and send it back to her, or decide to end the case completely with no ruling – meaning that Apple would get away with owing nothing. Consumer lawyer Steve Berman believes that this situation in which Apple finds itself could work out famously for Apple, but not so well for consumers.

See Also: iOS’s back doors are accessible by Apple and the Government, Hacker says.

Until the appeals decision arrives, we’ll have to wait and see. Stay tuned to Inferse, as we’ll be back to bring you breaking news on the appeals decision and what it means for Apple and consumers in the long run.

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