Apple Corps, the Beatles' record company, has lost a trademark infringement court battle brought against Apple Computer. In London's High Court today (May 8), Mr Justice Edward Mann ruled that the com
Apple Corps, the Beatles' record company, has lost a trademark infringement court battle brought against Apple Computer.
Apple Corps, owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and the estates of John Lennon and George Harrison, had accused the computer company of breaching the terms of a 1991 trademark agreement over the apple trademark. The label claimed that the computer maker's push into the digital music business with the iTunes Music Store violated the agreement.
In London's High Court today (May 8), Mr Justice Edward Mann ruled that the computer firm used the apple logo in association with its store, not the music it delivered, and therefore was not in breach of the agreement.
During the case, the Beatles' label sought both an injunction to enforce the 1991 agreement and monetary damages for the alleged contract breach.
Apple Computer argued in court hearings in London earlier this year that iTunes was primarily a data transmission service, permitted by the agreement.
"We are glad to put this disagreement behind us," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement issued after the decision.
Representatives for Apple Corps criticized the decision. "This is a particularly disappointing decision," says Nicholas Valner, partner at Eversheds, solicitors to Apple Corps. "The judgment is curious. So much of what the judge says is right. It will be noted that he rejected pretty much every argument advanced by Lord Grabiner for Apple Computer."
Neil Aspinall, managing director of the record company, confirms an appeal will be launched in due course. "With great respect to the trial judge, we consider he has reached the wrong conclusion," Aspinall said. "We felt that during the course of the trial we clearly demonstrated just how extensively Apple Computer had broken the agreement. We will accordingly be filing an appeal."
Aspinall adds, "we have every prospect of reversing this decision on appeal."
Valner explains that the judge found that Apple Corps has the exclusive right to use the trademark for recordings transmitted in intangible form, and that Apple Computer has no right to apply its marks to "such matters." Valner says that this means the judge agreed that Apple Corps has the exclusive right to use the mark in connection with a download over the Internet.
Yet the judge went on to hold that using the apple logos with the iTunes Music Store was not using the logos in connection with downloaded music.
"Apple Corps has been advised that an appeal has every prospect of success," Valner says.
In the Apple Computer statement, Steve Jobs literally offered an olive branch to potentially sooth relations with the Beatles. "We have always loved the Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store."
Until now, the Beatles have held out making available their catalog for downloading. According to testimony given during the trial by Aspinall, the label is in the process of digitally re-mastering the entire Beatles catalog, which would pave the way for selling the tracks online.
The latest court case began when Apple Corps sued Apple Computer in September 2003. In April 2004, a London judge dismissed an application in which the computer maker argued that the full case should be dealt with by courts in California, not England.
The out-of-court settlement in 1991, which included a $26.5 million (£13.9 million) payment to Apple Corps from Apple Computer, prohibited the computer make to use the apple name and logo for the promotion of music products.