Trademark Musings

Thoughts on trademark issues by Laura Winston

Comparing APPLE to APPLE

The BIG, EXCITING news of last week that the Beatles are FINALLY available on iTunes (raise your hand if you’ve been putting off buying Beatles CD’s for all these years just waiting for this life-changing announcement) gave me the idea to talk a little about the history of the trademark dispute between Apple Corps, the holding company for the Beatles catalog, and Apple Inc., nee Apple Computer of the Apple IIe and Macintosh fame.

It all started back in 1978 when Apple Corps and Apple Records, owner of the Beatles record label, took Apple Computer to court for trademark infringement.  The case settled in 1981 with a consent agreement that Apple Computer would not get involved in the music business  (hahaha, famous last words) and Apple Corps would stay out of the computer business.  The dispute flared up again in 1986 and again in 1991, when Apple Computer made forays into the likes of MIDI software and sampled sound systems in the operating system for Macs.    This round of disputes ended with a settlement in which Apple Computer could use APPLE in connection with “goods or services…used to reproduce, run, play or otherwise deliver [music] content”, but not in connection with physical media used to distribute such content.

Hop to 2003.    The iPod has already been out for 2 years, though it’s not yet the category killer it’s destined to become.  Apple Computer launches the iTunes Store in April.  And Apple Corps realizes that, lo and behold, Apple Computer is in the music business!  So Apple Corps sues again!

In 2006, as the case was about to go to trial in the U.K., the Sunday Times of London had this delicious quotation: “The court will be treated to a demonstration of an iPod, but it is unlikely to play a Beatles song, as they have not been licensed for download and it would therefore be illegal. ”  (Of course, the Times was overlooking the fact that people could upload their Beatles CD’s to their computers and load them onto their own iPods legitimately.)  Apple Computer won the trial, Apple Corps ap-PEELED (sorry, couldn’t help myself).  and in 2007, while the appeal was pending, the parties settled the dispute for both disclosed and undisclosed terms.

Now, November 2010, finally APPLE and APPLE gave peace a chance, realized that all you need is love, and struck a mutually lucrative deal while singing, “The best things in life are free but you can keep ’em for the birds and bees…”

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November 23, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. LOL, the Beatles lives on…
    Thank you for the interesting story!

    Comment by jk@l2bsolution.com | November 26, 2010 | Reply

  2. Love your humor!

    Comment by Bill Richards | December 1, 2010 | Reply

  3. It didn’t work the first time. My Aunt Zelda from Baltimore wore the kind of dresses and glasses you mention. She also had a beehive “do” in the 1950’s. Her term for people from Baltimore was different. She once complained to me that she had relatives who lived in New York whom she disliked because they used the term BALTIMORONS>

    Comment by EDDIE WINSTON | January 8, 2011 | Reply


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