A long and winding legal road took another twist for the Beatles' record company today, when 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 that 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 CEO 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 immediately take the case to Britain's Court of 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 Corps was founded by the Fab Four in 1968 and still owned by Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, the widow of John Lennon and the estate of George Harrison.
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."
By Jennifer Quinn
May 8, 2006