The Justice Department suit against the publishers and Apple for introducing agency pricing is not seeking damages—just a change in the way publishers price. However, the competing class-action lawsuits filed by various law firms and a number of state attorney generals are seeking damages, and therein lies a bit of a snarl-up. PaidContent has an interesting article looking at the matter at great length.

The publishers who settled with the DoJ have also been settling with states to the tune of millions of dollars, and this creates a problem for the lawyers who filed the non-state-related class action firms—the states take precedence, so they can’t get paid of the publishers already settled with the states. (They are currently staking their hopes on getting a piece of Macmillan, Penguin, and Apple, who are fighting the DoJ in court and presumably don’t plan on settling with states either.)

Apparently cases where the states step in to sue on behalf of their citizens are pretty rare, and legal observers such as University of Minnesota anti-trust professor Daniel Gifford note that they have never seen anything like the e-book case before. (Gifford also posits that the attorneys general are getting involved for political reasons, to snag some publicity for joining such a highly-publicized cause.)

And consumers shouldn’t expect to see any of those millions of dollars any time soon. It is doubtful it can be dispensed before some of the other suits in the matter are dispensed with—which could take a couple of years. (And the amount any given person gets is not going to be huge at any rate.)

So the circus continues…