In a scheduling order made public Thursday, Judge Denise Cote hinted that she may not be pleased with the timeline proposed in Apple's e-book price-fixing settlement. The parties are seeking preliminary approval of the proposed agreement, which is usually granted fairly quickly in most settlements. But in her brief order, Cote set a telephone conference for July 24 and instructed the parties to be prepared to address whether, "in the event that their request for delayed notice is not approved, the parties wish to proceed with immediate distribution of notice of the Proposed Settlement."

Under the proposed settlement, the parties have agreed that Apple's appeal question should be decided before any legally mandated notice is sent to consumers, to minimize confusion. But Apple's liability question could take months, even years, to wend its way through the appeals courts, before the potentially lengthy formal settlement approval process would begin.

Cote also ordered the plaintiffs to present to Apple an alternate plan "which assumes immediate distribution of notice to consumers" and ordered Apple and the plaintiffs to confer and submit to the court a potential joint notice plan by next Wednesday.

Under terms of the proposed deal, Apple could pay consumers as much as $400 million if Cote's verdict is upheld by the Second Circuit; $50 million if the case is remanded for further proceedings; or nothing, if Cote's decision is reversed.

Throughout the litigation, Cote has shown a desire to move matters quickly. She granted final approval to the first three publisher settlements less than five months after the Department of Justice first announced its action, and she also granted swift final approval to the state and consumer settlements.