Apple Records-Apple Computer

Do you agree or disagree with the court’s decision?

LONDON (AP) – Apple Computer Inc. is entitled to use the apple logo on its iTunes Music Store, a judge ruled Monday, rejecting a suit filed by Apple Corps Ltd., the guardian of The Beatles’ commercial interests.

Apple Corps, which claimed that the computer company had broken a 1991 agreement in which each side agreed not to enter into the other’s field of business, said it would appeal.

Judge Edward Mann of Britain’s High Court ruled that Apple Computer used the fruit logo in association with the store, not the music, and thus did not breach the agreement.

“I conclude that the use of the apple logo … does not suggest a relevant connection with the creative work,” Mann said in his written judgment. “I think that the use of the apple logo is a fair and reasonable use of the mark in connection with the service, which does not go further and unfairly or unreasonably suggest an additional association with the creative works themselves.”

Though Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs said he was “glad to put this disagreement behind us,” the case appears far from over. Neil Aspinall, the manager of Apple Corps, said his company would immediately appeal.

“We felt that during the course of the trial we clearly demonstrated just how extensively Apple Computer has broken the agreement,” Aspinall said in a statement.

Apple Computer has sold more than 1 billion songs through the iTunes Music Store, which is available throughout Europe as well as in the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. Though there are more than 3 million tracks available for purchase in the U.S. — and 2 million in Britain — there are no Beatles’ songs listed. The band’s catalog is not available on iTunes.

In his brief statement, Jobs said he hoped the ruling would help rectify that situation: “We have always loved the Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store.”

Lawyers for Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple Computer had argued that the company was conducting its business legally and consumers are smart enough to tell the difference between the logos. Apple Corps uses a shiny green apple as its logo, while Apple Computer has a cartoon-like apple with a neat bite taken out.

Lawyers for each side tussled during the hearing over advertisements for iTunes featuring musical acts U2, Eminem and Coldplay, using the logo. The judge confessed early on that he owned an iPod.

The 1991 agreement ended previous lengthy litigation over the logo. Apple Computer told the court that it paid the Fab Four’s company $26.5 million as part of the 1991 out-of-court settlement, and in return had received “a considerably expanded field of use.” The terms of the deal were kept confidential at the time.

Mann refused Apple Computer’s application for an immediate interim payment of 1.5 million pounds ($2.8 million) from Apple Corps toward its legal costs, pending further hearings. Apple Corps faces a similar bill for its own legal expenses.

While the case may have seemed glamorous because of the litigants, it really came down to the interpretation of a contract — the 1991 agreement — said Jonathan Riley, an intellectual property lawyer with London firm Lawrence Graham.

“It was watched with interest, but also some distance, because I don’t think it’s hugely significant for either the computer industry or the music industry,” he said.

Apple Corps was started by the Beatles in 1968 and is still owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the widow of John Lennon and the estate of George Harrison. Apple Computer was formed in 1976, when college dropouts Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak filed partnership papers on April Fools’ Day.

© 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

6 Responses to “Apple Records-Apple Computer”

  1. I wholly disagree with the court’s decision…. The names are the same and the logos are too close…. If these were two American companies there would not be any dispute… It just goes to show if you got enough money and the judge has an ipod, you’re home free…. The main thread in this is that Apple Computers were not in the music business during the original suit in 1991, but, how long to you think Sony or Mobil or any other big corporation would sit still if a person decided to name it’s company with the same name and a similar logo even if they only dealt in peanuts?…. I always wondered how Apple Computers got away with using the name and logo…..

  2. #2 by huskysooner

    I’m not speaking to the merits of the case, but does anyone believe that Apple Corps/Records is even remotely as recognizable or visible as Apple Computer? Would the average person under 50 even recognize the Apple Records logo?

    My gut feeling is that the case was rightly decided. Most people know that iTunes/iPod are related to Apple (computer) and that they are a vendor.

    Is anybody here an expert on the esoteric topic of trademark infringement in the UK? I have a feeling this one may be beyond the MRBlog sphere of expertise! But so much of the law surrounding trademark, copyright, and intellectual property appears to be decided as much by ouija boards and throwing darts; our gut feelings may not be a whole lot worse. Also, it’s as boring as hell (though important).

  3. My gut instinct is that few, if any people would confuse Apple Computer with Apple Records. I think the judge’s decision is probably fair.

    That being said, back when Apple first started their music store, it was actually called the “Apple Music Store”. Their lawyers must’ve figured out that was a Very Bad Idea ™ because they quickly changed it to the “iTunes Music Store.” I think if they called it the “Apple Music Store” or if they were actually releasing albums under the Apple brand name, the balance might tip in favor of Apple Records. But since they aren’t acting as a record label, but merely a content distributor and they’re using the “iTunes” brand name to do it, I think the judge made the right call.

    I’m a fan of both The Beatles and Apple Computer, for what it’s worth.

  4. MR, I wondered the same thing myself, all these years. Not that this has anything to do with it, but: Which do you believe had the bigger impact on society, The Beatles or Apple Computers? Think, before you respond. You had to have been there to fully realise the impact the Beatles had on society as a whole. Of course, younger people would always say Apple computer, because they were around for the advent of the PC & couldn’t dream of a world without it.

  5. jek, I’m disappointed you haven’t weighed in on this one. I always find your comments “enlightening” from a younger persons point of view.

  6. Sorry for the delay Sunn. This all happened around Tarn’s BDay. I threw a big bash for her 30th, so things were a bit crazy. Thanks for the compliment on my comments. (I think that was a compliment.)

    I think the lawsuit ended fairly. The link later posted by TTop describes all the points and history very well. It’s interesting how Apple Corps was knocking at the door of Apple Computer way back in 1981. I am one of the people who is less than 50 years old and can easily identify the Apple Corps Logo. I also was exposed to Apple Computer back in the Apple II days. AND every once in a while, when I went over to a friends house, I had Apple Jacks for breakfast. I am able to distinguish all three. Now about Apple Computer behaving like a record company: right now they aren’t, IMO. It would be smart for them not to cross that line.

    Your second question is certainly the tougher one and probably really deserves its own post/discussion. For me, I’d say The Beatles, though I don’t fully comprehend their impact on society. Without Apple Computer on the other hand, my guess is that there would be another company that would have filled its role, if not as good and definitely different. As much as I dislike Microsoft, a better question might be between The Beatles and Microsoft.

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