By Jennifer Quinn
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
LONDON -- A long and winding legal road took another twist for the Beatles' record company Monday, after a British judge ruled that Apple Computer Inc. is entitled to use the apple logo on its iTunes Music Store.
Apple Corps, the guardian of the Beatles' commercial interests, contended that the U.S. company's use of the logo on its popular online music store had broken a 1991 agreement in which each side agreed not to enter into the other's field of business.
But High Court Judge Anthony Mann disagreed, saying the computer company's logo is used in association with the store, not the music, and so 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 chief executive Steve Jobs said he was "glad to put this disagreement behind us," the dispute appears far from over. Neil Aspinall, the manager of Apple Corps, said his company would take the case to Britain's Court of Appeal.
Apple Corps uses a shiny green apple as its logo, while Apple Computer has a cartoon-like apple with a bite taken out. Apple Corps was founded by the Beatles in 1968 and is owned by Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, along with John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, and the estate of George Harrison.
Apple Computer has sold more than 1 billion songs through the iTunes Music Store, which is available in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia and Japan. Though there are more than 3 million song tracks available for purchase in the United States, there are no Beatles songs listed. [Apple Corps announced last month that it plans to remaster the Beatles catalogue and eventually sell the songs individually online.]
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," Jobs said.
That could be the case's main consequence, said Arthur Levy, an entertainment lawyer in New York.
"It's my belief that even if Apple Computer had lost, they'd find a way to do what they were doing, either with a different name or logo," Levy said. "The impact it could have is that if the two Apples patch up their differences, then maybe you'd see Beatles songs on iTunes."
Keith Badman, a Beatles expert and author of several books on the band, said he cannot see Apple Corps backing down. "We've lost John and George, and this is their music, their legacy, their heritage. They just want to make sure they're protected," Badman said of Apple Corps.