Apple, Beatles Settle Trademark Lawsuit
Monday, February 5, 2007; 9:31 PM
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- For the third time in nearly three decades, iPod maker Apple Inc. has resolved a bitter trademark dispute with The Beatles' guardian Apple Corps Ltd. over use of the iconic apple logo and name.
But while the truce announced Monday appeared to finally bury the long-simmering animosity, music lovers will still need to wait for the right to buy such songs as "Love Me Do" or "Hey Jude" on Apple Inc.'s iTunes online store.
The announcement _ made jointly by one of the world's largest music sellers and one of history's most beloved bands _ was silent on whether the catalog of Beatles songs will become available for download any time soon.
The Beatles have so far been the most prominent holdout from iTunes and other online music services, and Apple's overtures to put the music online have been stymied by the ongoing litigation.
The settlement gives Cupertino-based Apple Inc. ownership of the name and logo in return for agreeing to license some of those trademarks back to London-based Apple Corps _ guardian of The Beatles' commercial interests _ for their continued use.
It ends the ongoing trademark lawsuit between the two companies, with each side paying its own legal costs. Other terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Industry analysts said a resolution on putting The Beatles' music online is likely already in the works.
"It goes from impossible to a lock that it's going to happen _ it's a function of time at this point," said Gene Munster, senior research analyst with investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co. "I bet they move pretty fast. For Apple, it was critical that they got this taken care of."
Jaffray estimates that Apple Inc. paid The Beatles $50 million to $100 million for the rights to the Apple name. That would come on top of more than $26.5 million Apple paid to settle past disputes with Apple Corps.
It's no secret that Steve Jobs _ Apple Inc.'s chief executive officer and a huge Beatles fan _ has wanted the British band's music on iTunes, which has sold more than 2 billion songs worldwide and has catapulted Apple into the top ranks of music sellers.
Jobs even cued up some Beatles music and album art in unveiling the company's highly anticipated iPhone gadget at the Macworld Conference and Expo last month, setting off rampant speculation that some type of deal might be in the works.
However, decades of legal disputes between the two companies have thus far made any partnership all but impossible.