Apple Computer Takes A Bite Out Of Beatles In Court Battle

Computer company not liable for trademark infringement against Beatles' Apple Corps.

In the battle of the Apples, technology has won out. A judge in London's High Court ruled Monday that Apple Computer is not liable for trademark infringement against the Beatles' Apple Corps, according to a Reuters report.

It was the third time the two companies clashed in court, but this time out, the judge did not agree with Apple Corps' argument that the computer company's launch of the iTunes store was a move into the music business and a violation of a 1991 trademark agreement between the companies.

Apple Computer argued in court that iTunes was basically a data transmission service, which is permitted by the 1991 agreement between the two companies, which restricted the exclusive ways in which each could use their logos.

Apple Corps — owned by surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr and the families of John Lennon and George Harrison — had sparked another court battle between the longtime rivals by arguing that the iTunes music store was a move into the music business by the California computer company, in violation of the 1991 agreement. That deal gave Apple Corps the exclusive right to use the apple trademark for the record business.

In deciding the case, Justice Edward Mann ruled that Apple Computer had used its distinctive apple logo in association with the store, not the music, according to a BBC News report — which is not a breach of the 1991 pact.

The Beatles launched Apple Corps in 1968 with a distinctive image of a green Granny Smith apple, while Apple computer launched in 1976 with its equally distinctive logo, an apple with a bite taken out of it. During the trial, the head of Apple Corps, Neil Aspinall, testified that Apple Computers boss Steve Jobs had once told him that he named his company in honor of the band.

The two companies agreed to share the use of the Apple trademark in 1981, but Apple Computer sought a less restrictive agreement in 1989, which led to the 1991 settlement in which it reportedly paid the Beatles' company $26 million.

Apple Corps launched the latest court battle over concerns that the iPod and iTunes were a move by Apple Computer into the music business. The Beatles' music is not currently available for download on iTunes or any other legitimate service, and Aspinall said in court that the band is in the midst of remastering their catalog for an expected entry into the digital music space (see "Beatles Plan To Enter Digital Age, Sell Songs Online").

For complete digital music coverage, check out the Digital Music Reports.